- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The jersey presentations and photo opportunities complete, Washington Redskins coach Jim Zorn finally was able to talk about adding three weapons to his passing offense. It didn’t take him long to get rolling.

“I’m excited about the ability to change personnel groups,” he said yesterday after second-round picks Devin Thomas, Fred Davis and Malcolm Kelly were introduced at Redskin Park. “That’s what aids this style of offense. We’ll be able to utilize guys for certain situations.”

Zorn then reeled off several possible formations in which receivers Thomas and Kelly and tight end Davis could be involved: Two-back, one-tight end, two-receiver; one-back, one-tight end, three-receiver; two-back, three-receiver; two-tight end, two-receiver.

Yes, Zorn is a little excited to have so many chess pieces to move around.

Even though they’re rookies, Zorn expects them to contribute. And even though they know about the talent at the skill positions, the rookies expect to contribute.

The Redskins traded out of the No. 21 spot of the first round to acquire two second-round picks (in addition to their own) from the Atlanta Falcons. They chose Thomas 34th, Davis 48th and Kelly 51st overall.

“It’s adding more fire to an offense that already had a lot of fuel,” Thomas said. “We’re going to be rolling, and it’s going to be a good situation for everybody.”

The process of presenting the new passing offense to the Redskins in general and rookies in particular starts Friday with a three-day minicamp. Yesterday the draft picks and their families toured the facility and met the coaching staff. The three players had breakfast together in the morning.

“We’re going to push each other to get better,” Kelly said. “We were ‘the guy’ at our colleges last year, but now we’re pups again. We know where we stand. We know we have to come in and compete.”

Thomas, who will wear Brandon Lloyd’s No. 85, took a detour to Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before playing at Michigan State for two seasons.

“He really went through the maturing process in junior college,” said Thomas’ father, Dwight. “He was in an isolated area, and there basically was nothing else to do but think about football and get his GPA up. He really grew a whole lot as a person.”

Thomas had a huge junior season for the Spartans, catching a school-record 79 passes and eight touchdowns.

“I feel like with my size I can fight for the ball using my body at the highest point and box out linebackers and defensive backs,” he said. “I can take some shots and keep on ticking.”

Kelly, an early entry player from Oklahoma, thought the Redskins were going to take him after they flew down to Norman last week for a private workout. Yet they chose Thomas first.

“After that workout, I told family, friends and everybody I was going to end up a Washington Redskin,” Kelly said. “[After Thomas was drafted], I didn’t count it out. I knew it was a new offense being brought in and they would need a lot of playmakers. When they did pick me, I was excited.”

Thomas (6-foot-2) and Kelly (6-4) instantly become Jason Campbell’s biggest targets. Both players are tall enough to outjump cornerbacks and physical enough to overpower them in the air.

“Devin has more speed — he has the speed to explode and separate from guys,” offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. “Malcolm has power and explosiveness to get by smaller guys and he can out-physical guys.”

Thomas and Kelly will first learn the ‘Z’ (or slot) receiver position but will be moved around the field based on matchups and formations.

Davis, meanwhile, will remain at tight end — although shifting him to other spots on the field is probable.

Davis was as surprised as Redskins fans when his name was called Saturday night. He caught 62 passes for Southern Cal last season and was in New York last night for the John Mackey Award ceremonies, given annually to the nation’s best tight end.

“It’s going to be a learning experience at first, and it’s going to be great learning from a tight end who’s been around,” Davis said.

Ideally, the Redskins would like to have Davis and Chris Cooley on the field at the same time and have both be covered by defensive backs, which would open up the run game.

“It forces defenses to make a choice on what they’re doing because if you have two tight ends on the field that run routes well and catch the ball well, you can’t cover them with linebackers,” Cooley said.

Zorn said the coaching staff will have an idea on what the three second-round picks will be able to provide this season following training camp.

“After the preseason, we’ll know what kind of talents these guys are,” he said. “There will be about 40 practices and five games before we have to line it up against the Giants. Within that, we’ll be able to hone in, look at their strengths and see what we can do with them. They’re going to be good. We just need to learn how to utilize their talents.”

Note — The Redskins filled out their roster by signing 13 players who went undrafted last weekend. The list is cornerback Matteral Richardson (Arkansas), defensive end Dorian Smith (Oregon State), linebacker Curtis Gatewood (Vanderbilt), offensive lineman Devin Clark (New Mexico), safety Kevin Mitchell (Illinois), offensive lineman Shannon Boatman (Florida State), defensive end Alonzo Dotson (Oklahoma), offensive lineman Kerry Brown (Appalachian State), offensive lineman Kyle Devan (Oregon State), wide receiver Horace Gant (St. Olaf, Minn., College), quarterback Bret Meyer (Iowa State), linebacker Bryan Wilson (Morgan State) and safety Justin Scott (Purdue).

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