With Jim Zorn’s first year as the Washington Redskins head coach behind him (a season where the offense started out hot, but fizzled late), he will look to diversify and expand the offensive playbook for this year.
That will largely depend on whether second year guys Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, and Fred Davis, the Redskins top three picks from last year’s draft, can get on the field, and in Thomas and Kelly’s case, stay on the field.
Already this spring, on the first day of a three-day minicamp this past weekend, Thomas re-aggravated the hamstring injury that kept him out of the 2008 training camp. Kelly was also ruled out of minicamp while his knee still recovers from the microfracture surgery he had in February.
With Zorn wanting to stretch defenses vertically and horizontally, these two guys, along with Davis, will be key to their success.
In Zorn’s “west coast” offense, which requires precise timing routes, two tight-end sets are vital to accomplishing the offensive gains he wants in his second year as a head coach. If Davis can crack the starting lineup, alongside Pro Bowl tight-end Chris Cooley, I think this offense could take the next step needed to be one of the best in the league.
From all reports out of Redskins Park, Davis is one of the most athletic guys on the roster. A big target at 6’4”, 257 pounds, getting him downfield will be important, and will cause all kinds of mismatches.
If Kelly, and/or Thomas, can gain a little more confidence and knowledge in this offense, Redskins fans could see a lot more four receiver sets. Just imagine Santana Moss and Devin Thomas on the outside, with Malcolm Kelly and Antwaan Randle-El in the slots. Talk about stretching the field.
Not only will this open up the passing game, but it will provide the room needed for the running attack to be even better this year. With defenses having to guard three and four guys downfield, and in the middle of the field, Clinton Portis will rarely see all three linebackers keying on him.
It will also allow for Portis to catch more balls out of the backfield, something he rarely did last year.
Of course, the ‘Skins will still need Jason Campbell (or whoever the starting quarterback is by this time) to deliver the ball, and in order for that to happen, they will need the offensive line to stay healthy and give him the necessary time to do that.
There’s a lot riding on all of these factors, including Zorn’s job.