The battle for flanker
My story for today’s paper sizes up the competition for the No. 2 receiver spot. Jim Zorn said yesterday that it’s still wide open.
From my perspective, Malcolm Kelly is really making a push. At the outset of camp, Zorn said Kelly was behind Thomas. That seemed reasonable. Thomas practiced all throughout his rookie season, while Kelly was hampered by his left knee.
But Kelly has been the one flashing in practice and games. And as I tried to highlight in my story, he’s staying after practice to get extra work in. In my opinion (which counts for zippy) Kelly is the leader.
Antwaan Randle El has been steady in practice, and the staff knows what it’s gonna get with him. I really believe his best attributes will be exploited as a slot receiver. Even rookie Marko Mitchell is generating some serious positive momentum. Meanwhile, Thomas is not standing out at all.
He told me yesterday that he wants more chances to make some big plays. The more I think about it, the more he’s right. There are only so many balls to go around in the preseason, and these guys aren’t playing the whole game. What if Thomas ran the opening deep post against Pittsburgh? Part of this is the opportunities awarded by the coaching staff. Of course, those must be earned.
I received some comments about Thomas’ perceived lack of effort on the interception that Todd Collins threw just before halftime of the Pittsburgh game. If you don’t recall the play, Thomas ran an intermediate cross at the Washington 45-yard line. Collins’ throw sort of floated, and Pittsburgh’s Keiwan Ratliff made a determined break on the ball. Thomas did not, and Ratliff picked it off.
I asked both Thomas and Zorn about the play. (I specifically asked Zorn about Thomas’ role on the play.) Here’s what they said.
Q: What happened on the interception?
"It was good coverage. They switched up the coverage. Before we came out and Malcolm went across the middle and it was wide open. They adjusted the coverage and figured somebody was going to break across. I was the one that broke across. [Ratliff] stayed in my back pocket. The quarterback got pressured. He stepped up into the pocket, it kind of floated on him and the DB undercut it.
Q: Should you have boxed the DB out for it?
"I had no control of that. I didn’t know where he was. I didn’t know he was right there on my hip like that. I just know I had a lot of open field in front of me, that’s why I was anticipating the pass in front. But Todd had to step up and it caused the throw to go a little softer on him than he wanted."
"The ball was thrown a little bit behind [Thomas], and the DB was close and got a beat on it and broke. He broke forward where our receiver was going sideways or parallel to the line of scrimmage. He got there at the intersection a little bit quicker. We’d like to have that play back, I’m sure."
No word yet on who will start on Friday night against New England. It’s certainly something that bears a close eye.