Wide receivers coach Stan Hixon is entering his fifth season with the Redskins--and this year he has two high draft picks to work with and tutor. Hixon talked at length about Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly with Redskins.com and media this week.
Q: First, what were your thoughts when the team drafted Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly with two of the first three picks in the draft?
A: "Both Devin and Malcolm were really high on that board, as you know. I am just ecstatic that we get both of them. I was ecstatic about the first one. Then I was watching television and saw the second one--and I was a guy who got a big Christmas present."
Q: What jumped out about Thomas?
A: "Speed. Devin ran a 4.4 (in the 40-yard dash) and one time had a 4.39. Also, he is big. The number one goal was to get a big receiver that could run. He is 6-2, 215 pounds. He makes plays--touchdown plays. He had some great games [at Michigan State]. He had 79 catches for 1,000-plus yards and eight touchdowns last year. He was very impressive."
Q: And Malcolm Kelly?
A: "Malcolm Kelly was very productive for three straight years at Oklahoma. He was the leading receiver throughout the year, just making plays. He also has height. He is just under 6-4 in height. He can jump up and make catches. He comes from a great program with good coaching [at Oklahoma]. So we got two really good playmakers from two good football programs. If you play in the Big 10 and the Big 12--that's good football. Like in the SEC, it speaks volumes [about a player's ability]."
Q: Malcolm Kelly ran a slow 40-yard time at his Pro Day. What importance do you place on that?
A: "When we worked him out personally [on April 24], the first thing I noticed was his burst off the ball. He plays a lot faster than that 40 time. Jerry Rice was a very productive player--a Hall of Famer--and he was not a very fast guy. But he was very productive. Malcolm Kelly is a football player. As a coach you say, 'How does he play the game?' Sometimes these vertical jumps and these 40 times kind of get out of whack. It is a measuring stick. The bottom line is how you play [in games]. He has proven at Oklahoma that [every game] he showed up and was a big time player, from a freshman on to his junior year."
Q: Do you envision Thomas and Kelly eventually pushing starters Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El?
A: "It is hard to say right now. We are expecting great things out of [Thomas and Kelly], but they have to mature and learn the system. Once they get here and get used to the speed of the game, we will make a decision from there."
Q: How much did Santana's injuries from the last two years play a factor in the decision to draft two wide receivers?
A: "Santana came on strong at the end of last year. He had a tough year with the injury, but that's not normal for him. Santana is a phenomenal player. He is the best player we have. [In the draft], w we're just trying to enhance the position. When defenses start to doubling coverage on Santana, we need to be able to throw the ball somewhere else."
Q: How happy are you to work with a pair of big receivers?
A: "I'm excited. They're bigger and faster. They will spread the field. When it's 3rd-and-7 or 3rd-and-9, you can't have the defense go, 'Where's Santana? Where's 89?' Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly have shown the ability to make plays--and make plays in traffic. They have big bodies and big targets. I'm sure Jason [Campbell] is going to appreciate the taller wide receivers."
Q: Why do most rookie receivers have trouble making a big impact right away?
A: "It's a matter of getting off press coverage and [adjusting to] the speed of the game. If you watch the highlight tapes of both [Thomas and Kelly], they got press coverage in college and they beat it. Plus, they're big enough that defensive backs who are 5-10 or 5-11 in height--if they miss a tackle or they're not physical enough, they're in trouble. That's a big plus for both of those guys."
Q: How big of a challenge is to get them adapted to the West Coast offense?
A: "I think both of them have shown the ability to learn. They tested pretty good and they have been in good football systems. As good football players, they shouldn't have any problems. It's not hard. It takes some time and concentration. It's a matter of just doing it, over and over again, and they should be in pretty good shape."