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Will Kelly Outflank Thomas for Playing Time?

Devin Thomas is not expected to play in today's intrasquad scrimmage because of lingering hamstring soreness. Malcolm Kelly, however, is on the list to participate, which could be good for him.

Although Thomas had an early lead on Kelly to become the starting Z receiver, or flanker, opposite Santana Moss (the X receiver or split end), things could be changing with the Skins preparing to begin their preseason schedule Thursday against the Ravens.

Thomas has exhibited more maturity and a better work ethic than he did as a rookie last season, many in the organization said, but he must learn to push through pain and stay on the field. Coach Jim Zorn recently acknowledged the Skins have proceeded cautiously with Thomas, their top 2008 draft pick, because he's still "learning how to handle his body."

Young athletes experience that situation as they transition from college to the pros, but the Skins are counting on Thomas for a lot this season. If he can't get it all together quickly and seize the opportunity on the platter in front of him, Kelly might sprint past him before the season starts.

Early on in camp last season, Kelly was the team's most impressive rookie wideout, and he made a favorable impression on veterans with his ability an attitude. Kelly and quarterback Jason Campbell began to develop a strong relationship when Campbell was part of a Skins contingent that flew to Oklahoma before the 2008 draft to conduct a private interview/workout with Kelly.

Kelly ran a variety of routes as Campbell threw to him during the workout. When Vinny Cerrato asked for his opinion, Campbell gave Kelly a favorable recommendation and the Skins selected Kelly after picking Thomas and pass-catching tight end Fred Davis (they were all chosen in the second round).

Campbell and Kelly continued to work well early in training camp last season. But Kelly's knee problems, which the Skins were aware of when they drafted him, became a season-long issue that affected how the team assembled the roster and limited Kelly to only five games.

After undergoing microfracture surgery in February, Kelly returned to the team determined to make a statement with his play. As talk of Thomas's big chance swirled early in camp, Kelly said little and continued to work. He had a minor setback with a hamstring problem but was on the field more than Thomas this week.

Regardless of how well Thomas and Kelly perform in practice, the competition to line up most often opposite Moss could last throughout the preseason schedule. Thomas was ahead of Kelly, but there's still plenty of time for Kelly to make a big move.

Zorn is scheduled to address the crowd at a little after 1 p.m., so I'm going to leave the comfortable, cool press room soon and head to the field. I'll also swing by the front of the complex and provide an update on the parking and traffic situation.

By Jason Reid  |  August 8, 2009; 12:40 PM ET
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Just watched the skins at cowboys in 08 again on Itunes, I wish they would play that way every weekend

Posted by: stivic | August 8, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

I don't see how we can favor one of these WRs over the other. Thomas has apparently been a slow starter throughout his career and Kelly -- well, we know what Kelly's weakness is. No matter who comes out of camp ahead, the chances are good we need both during the coming season.

Besides, they're not really the same type of player. Kelly is a long-striding type who moves faster than he looks and is supposedly expert at catching the high pass over the defender. We certainly need that. Thomas is faster and quicker, more like a running back once he gets the ball, and a bona fide deep threat.

Let's hope both contribute. We need all the help we can get.

Posted by: Samson151 | August 8, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

great game... two touchdowns called back cause of Rabach but we still got the ball in. Kelly has the size, lets hope they can both be healthy. Im rooting for my boy Marques Hagans to get that 5th spot!

Posted by: DCXNTX | August 8, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

check out chick hernandez in a tub of ice hahahahahahahah

Posted by: nattylite88 | August 8, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Season ticket holder since the RFK days, and also happen to be a lifelong Sooners fan (both parents went there). I've watched every OU game for the past 7 years and Kelly is the best WR they've had come through that offense. If he can stay on the field, and obviously that was a problem last season, he can make legitimate contributions to the Skins. His injury history at OU is overreported...he had a solid career there and played a lot.

Posted by: shasta_mcnasty | August 8, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

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