[caption id="attachment_1294" align="aligncenter" width="341" caption="Will Devin Thomas get his hands on the ball a lot more this year?"][/caption]
Less than a week into camp it appears that a starting job for the Washington Redskins has changed hands.
Per Jason Reid at the WaPo, Devin Thomas has the inside track to start at wide receiver opposite Santana Moss. Thomas had his shot this track from the get-go. When the offense lined up for its first snap of 11-on-11 drills on Thursday it was Moss wide left, Thomas wide right and Antwaan Randle El in the slot.
The Redskins have been trying to replace Randle El as the starter almost from the moment they got him as a free agent in 2006. They signed Brandon Lloyd the same year and envisioned him playing the role as the regular starter while Randle El ran gadget plays, returned punts, and played in the slot. The fact that Lloyd lost whatever ability made the Skins want to give up two draft picks and $10 million guaranteed to pry him away from San Francisco make them abandon this plan.
Last year the plan was for Thomas and/or Malcolm Kelly to supplant Randle El but both of them got off to a slow start and neither could even get time as the third wide receiver.
This time, however, it looks like Randle El has met his match. Per Reid, Thomas has drawn praise around the organization for his work ethic he has displayed in both his physical and mental preparation.
It remains to be seen if Kelly will be able to push Randle El further down the depth chart. Kelly has had a good camp so far. What Jim Zorn likes about him is that he catches with his hands and that, combined with his long arms, gives the quarterback a huge target when throwing in his direction. His practice time is somewhat limited by the microfracture surgery he had on his knee during the offseason so it may not be a good idea to count on him too much just yet.
But it's clear that Randle El is being phased out. It's unlikely that he'll be going much of anywhere since, according to my friend PC in Oz's salary cap chart, he is signed through 2016 and he has a lot of unallocated money on the books. But the player who currently has the 11th-highest cap number in 2009 may end up playing a marginal role on the team.