- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unhappy that the small Santana Moss was their only stud wide receiver, the Washington Redskins thought big in the 2008 draft, taking 6-foot-2 Devin Thomas and 6-4 Malcolm Kelly.

As if adding two big receivers to new coach Jim Zorn’s West Coast passing attack weren’t enough for a team with other needs, the Redskins decided to complement Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley with the nation’s top player at the position, selecting Fred Davis out of Southern Cal.

The focus on one area raised questions around the league. What’s worse is that Thomas, Kelly and Davis haven’t turned the Redskins into the Greatest Show on Grass.

On the contrary. Fourteenth in passing and 15th in total offense in 2007 under Joe Gibbs, Washington fell to 23rd and 19th in those categories during Zorn’s debut last season. This year, they’re 14th and 16th heading into Sunday’s game at Carolina.

And while Moss, Cooley and even undersized Antwaan Randle El - demoted in favor of Kelly this year - have produced at times during Washington’s 2-2 start, the second-year pass-catchers remain stuck in neutral. Kelly, Thomas and Davis have combined for 10 catches, 82 yards and no touchdowns - less output than Moss alone recorded two weeks ago in a win over Detroit.

The failure of Kelly, Thomas and Davis to produce is a major reason the Redskins have yet to score 30 points in a game under Zorn and why they’re 10-10 on his watch and 4-8 in their past 12 games.

Those offensive woes could also explain why management brought former Green Bay, Minnesota and Detroit coordinator Sherman Lewis out of retirement and foisted him as a consultant on Zorn, who had never called a play or been a coordinator in the pros before Dan Snyder made him coach in January 2008.

In last week’s 16-13 escape against the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jason Campbell threw just three balls toward Kelly, Thomas and Davis. Davis was the only one to make a catch - for a loss of a yard.

“I don’t think it’s on us to lift the offense up,” said Kelly, who revealed Thursday that he played the past three games with strained ligaments in his right thumb that require painkilling shots before kickoff. “Yeah, we can help the offense, but as far as me to just say, ‘The only way this offense is going to get going is me, Devin and Fred have to come out and have 100-yard games,’ I’m not going to say that.”

Neither will Zorn, who seldom seriously criticizes his players publicly. He chided Thomas and Kelly for reporting in subpar shape as rookies, conditioning woes exacerbated by injuries that kept them out for most of the 2008 preseason. Davis overslept a practice during minicamp that year but has stayed healthy.

“We’re still working on things,” Zorn said. “It’s the execution; it’s playing fast with the confidence of knowing all the nuances. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, these guys are just playing. Other guys are still learning, and I would put our young receivers in that. … It took them a while to get the adjustment.”

Indeed, while Kelly, Thomas and Davis have just 31 catches, 247 yards and no touchdowns in their combined 44 games (seven starts), fellow 2008 picks Eddie Royal, DeSean Jackson, John Carlson, Davone Bess, Donnie Avery, Dustin Keller and Jordy Nelson have better numbers by themselves. The Giants’ Mario Manningham - who, like Kelly, barely played as a rookie - needed just four games this year to outshine Washington’s trio.

“I know we’re judged as a group, but Malcolm’s starting, so to me, it’s me and Devin trying to figure out where we fit in,” Davis said. “Everybody wants to see us do something. I thought I would be a little more a part of it. It’s frustrating, but it’s something we’ve got to work through.”

Kelly dropped in the draft because some teams were concerned about his left knee, which was scoped three times in about a year. To his credit, he has declined to blame his painful thumb for having only six catches and 65 yards, the second-worst production in the league by a No. 2 receiver. But Kelly said games are “a total different vibe” from practice when he looked ready to emerge this summer.

“Malcolm’s been working on a lot of things - at being explosive off the line of scrimmage, getting in and out of breaks,” Zorn said. “We haven’t been able to get him the ball near as much as we’d like to, so he’s a work in progress.”

Thomas, beaten out by Kelly in the summer competition to supplant Randle El, should play more in the coming weeks because he has improved during practices, Zorn said. The receiver has had just one potential big moment this year: a bullet from Campbell in the end zone against the Rams that he couldn’t hang on to in traffic.

“There were a lot of bodies, but I should’ve caught it,” Thomas said. “I want to help get this team rolling like we should be. You can’t really harp on the weeks past. Any time could be a breakthrough. This could be my game where they really want to utilize me and allow me to play like I should. I think they’re still trying to find an exact role for me. I’m hoping I can just get it going. I’m ready to explode.”

Note - As expected, the Redskins promoted punter Glenn Pakulak from the practice squad Saturday so he can fill in for the injured Hunter Smith at Carolina. However, in a surprising move, the player released for Pakulak was not one of the experienced backups but instead veteran Renaldo Wynn.

The 35-year-old defensive end, who played for the Redskins from 2002 to 2006, re-signed in March but has not played in a game this season. Because Smith is expected to return as soon as next week, Wynn could be back on the roster when Pakulak is cut.

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