- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

When Washington drafted Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo last weekend, coach Jim Zorn said he might play strongside linebacker, the team’s biggest weakness.

It didn’t take long for the Redskins to decide that’s where the rookie might help them the most.

“Brian will be a linebacker mostly on first and second downs. And when he’s a defensive end, it will mostly be on third downs,” Zorn said Saturday.

Phillip Daniels, 36, is the front-runner to start at left end, where he started from 2004 to 2007 before missing last season with two torn knee ligaments. Orakpo would line up behind him on running downs. Orakpo would move to end on passing downs, with Daniels vying for playing time with Cornelius Griffin at tackle.

“It’s all up in the air, seeing what can I do and how I can stay on the field at all times,” Orakpo said. “The whole thing about this minicamp is to throw everything at me and see how I adjust. Later on - I already talked to [defensive line coach John Palermo] - I’m going to get with the D-line and get adjusted to the guys, but right now, we’re half-and-half. I feel real good. They brought me here to rush the passer, and I’m not getting away from that.”

D. Thomas hurt again

Devin Thomas joined fellow second-year receiver Malcolm Kelly on the sideline Saturday with an injured right hamstring suffered during a Friday afternoon collision with safety Reed Doughty. Thomas hopes to return by the middle of this week’s organized team activities.

“We had run a reverse, Reed had come over [to make the tackle] and they got their feet crossed and fell to the ground,” Zorn said. “He just felt something in his hamstring, so we shut him down. I don’t think it’s pulled. It’s just irritated, so we’ll give him a rest. I don’t want it to pull. I don’t want him to have a [major] setback.”

Thomas missed 18 days last summer with a pulled hamstring before catching 15 passes for 120 yards as a rookie. Zorn wants either Thomas or Kelly to play well this summer so veteran Antwaan Randle El can become more of a slot receiver.

Jansen at center

Jon Jansen, the Redskins’ starting right tackle most of the past 10 seasons, received some time at center in relief of Casey Rabach.

Jansen struggled during a stint at guard in practice after he was benched for Stephon Heyer in September. But at 33 and understanding that he might be a backup this season, Jansen is more accommodating to the move.

“I’m a man of many talents,” Jansen said. “We just want to take a look at it and see if I can play more than one position. I think it went real well. I had a bit of an introduction to it this time last year and a little bit more this time.”

Last year’s backup center, Justin Geisinger, signed with Carolina, and veteran guard Pete Kendall, who had started at center earlier in his career, has not signed and is unlikely to return. Young lineman Will Montgomery has tried snapping, too, but if Jansen can master the skill, his chances of sticking around and remaining active for each game will increase.

“We’re just trying to make sure that we can cover all of our bases,” Zorn said. “Jon’s a very versatile lineman. Some of the younger guys can’t function with some of the [line] calls that we have to make against our defensive team. Jon can do that, so he’s in there. Jon has done a great job of saying, ‘I want to start, but [beyond that] I want to be a part of this team.’ He’s played all three positions already out there.”

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