Whether Devin Thomas will land the No. 2 receiver slot opposite Santana Moss remains to be seen. But after a slow preseason start, he might have helped his chances Friday against New England.
Thomas caught three passes for 36 yards, all during a short span late in the second quarter and early in the third against the Patriots’ regulars. In the first two preseason games, Thomas had two catches for 19 yards.
He also returned three kickoffs for a 26.3-yard average while filling in for the injured Rock Cartwright. Although Thomas did not return kicks last year during his disappointing rookie season, he ranked 11th in the nation in kick returns at Michigan State in 2007.
Cartwright is expected to play Thursday in the Redskins’ preseason finale in Jacksonville, Fla. But Thomas said he enjoys returning kicks and wants another shot.
“That’s something I’ve always been pretty good at,” he said. “Hopefully I can still get looks.”
Thomas was the Redskins’ first draft pick last year, the 34th selection overall in the second round. But after injuring his hamstring during the preseason and then failing to grasp the offense, he played sparingly and caught only 15 passes for 120 yards.
Malcolm Kelly, the other second-round pick at wide receiver, also had a disappointing rookie year. Both are contending for the No. 2 wideout position with veteran Antwaan Randle El, who played there last year but is much smaller than Kelly and Thomas.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Thomas is the ideal combination of size and speed and was considered the slight favorite at the start of training camp. He has yet to emerge, but neither have the other two.
“Let the best man win,” Thomas said.
Coach Jim Zorn has said the issue might not be decided until after the start of the regular season and called the situation “a little bit clouded.”
Thomas did not look impressive during the preseason until the Patriots game, or at least that’s the perception. But not necessarily Thomas’.
“From what you could see as a fan [against the Patriots], you definitely could see more of what I was doing,” he said. “But we watch tape, and the coaches like what I’m doing, regardless, prior to that. But I actually got a chance to get the ball in my hands and showcase what I could do to everybody else.”
Thomas said getting to participate in a full training camp makes a big difference.
“You’re getting live reps, you’re getting the timing with the quarterback on foot speed and you’re going against a full-speed defense,” he said. “And you get a chance to go through that wear and tear where you’re tired and you’re fighting through it. When you sit out you don’t get that.”
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