FO's rotating Four Downs column got around to the NFC East today (scroll all the way down for the Redskins, but the whole article is worth a read).
They give due credit for succesfully upgrading both quarterback and left tackle, but somewhat surpisingly consider failing to replace Devin Thomas as a shortcoming of the Redskins' offseason:
"There were many reasons why Washington ranked 28th in passing DVOA last year, but at least one of them was the failure of the 2008 draft class of Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly to develop into frontline starters. Thomas was particularly disappointing, catching only 53 percent of the passes that went his way."
So the catch rate is the key knock against him here, but my more subjective opinion is that Thomas improved dramatically throughout the season. It wouldn't surprise me if the rate was pulled down by exceptionally low levels in the first part of '09 when frankly it looked like he couldn't do much of anything right. His progression went something like:
- Fairly useless
- Athletic and exciting (and Jason Campbell's preferred safety valve during broken plays) but still not reliable enough to be counted upon
- Gameplans built around getting the ball in his hands
(And by the way his advancement was also illustrated by his run blocking, which went from non-existent to surprisingly decent over the course of the year.)
It was great to watch, though I readily admit that a few impressive plays can overly skew a viewer's opinion of a given player. That's why stats like those offered by FO are a good corrective, but in this case I don't think they tell the whole story.
That said, Thomas is probably starting over again with the new coaching staff so I don't know that he is guaranteed a prominent role in the offense again.
FO points to the acquisition of Joey Galloway as evidence that the new regime is unimpressed with the receivers they inherited, but I have a feeling that he (along with Bobby Wade) were brought in purely to shore up the depth - I would be surprised if Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Santana Moss do not fill the top three receiver spots in 2010.
They also touch on undrafted running back Keiland Williams, who "does have a lot of raw speed, but he will need to stop bouncing everything outside if he wants to be the next Shanahan wonder back."
The concerns about Keiland's viability are reinforced in this Hogs Haven post.