- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2009

While Washington added serious talent this offseason to its fourth-ranked defense, the Redskins barely tinkered with their laggard offense.

Other than relying on improvement by the players during their second season in coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast attack, the Redskins are counting on a quantum leap by second-year receiver Devin Thomas to make their offense more dynamic.

Zorn also expects more from Thomas’ fellow 2008 second-round pass-catchers, Malcolm Kelly and Fred Davis. But Kelly’s oft-repaired left knee still isn’t right, and Davis remains stuck behind Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley. That leaves it to Thomas to rise from dud to stud.

“We’re looking for one sure starter out of those guys,” Zorn said. “We play a lot of our stuff with three receivers, and I want to put Antwaan [Randle El] in the slot. You’d like to see one guy completely take over the position, but all those guys are going to play. Those [young] guys have to make a statement. I need to see a lot of changes.”

Thomas failed the conditioning test that opened training camp last summer and missed 18 days with a pulled right hamstring, ruining his preseason. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder didn’t fare much better in the regular season, catching just 15 passes for 120 yards and no touchdowns. He also led the Redskins in offensive pass interference penalties.

“Devin didn’t get as many opportunities as I hoped he would’ve,” receiver coach Stan Hixon said. “It seemed like something always happened. Devin plays 100 miles an hour, and he needs to learn to understand the game more.”

Zorn, Hixon and Thomas all agreed that although he missed four days of practice with a tender right hamstring, he understands more now what it takes to be a professional.

“I’m the wild child, but I’m going to contain that wild,” Thomas said. “I’m going to be out there making plays - no pass interferences. Last year I was in combine shape, ready to run 40s. This year I’m in NFL shape, ready to run routes. It worked to my benefit being here this offseason, getting a chance to work with [quarterback Jason Campbell], talking to him more so he can get to know who I am and I get to know him. That’s huge for a quarterback and a receiver.”

Hixon said Thomas “seems to be a lot more confident” because he knows the offense better, a statement with which Thomas agreed.

“It’s that time [to step up],” he said. “It could’ve been last year, but we was going through our struggles, everybody learning the offense. I was frustrated, but I knew there was no point in bickering about it. This year, man, I feel like it’s ready. It’s more than the pot boiling. You see the steam, and you hear the tea kettle whistling. It’s time to take it off the stove.

“You’re going to see Devin Thomas make plays. You’re going to see more deep passes, across the middle, breaking tackles, doing whatever I do. It’s going to be every game - not a one-time thing. I already see the dance [after his first touchdown catch]. I see it happening real early, hopefully the first game.”

Notes - Running back Clinton Portis was back at Redskin Park but didn’t participate as May’s organized team activities ended Thursday. Cornerback DeAngelo Hall didn’t work out either, and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth was absent. OTAs resume June 1-4 and June 8-12 before a seven-week break before training camp. …

A team source said the Redskins have no interest in offensive tackle Levi Jones, whom Cincinnati cut Wednesday. …

The Redskins also signed wide receiver Keith Eloi and released punter Zac Atterberry on Thursday. Terms of Eloi’s deal were not disclosed. Eloi participated in the team’s minicamp last weekend on a tryout basis.

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