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Redskins' Young Receivers Playing Catch-Up

The first round of the 2008 NFL draft came and went without a single receiver or tight end chosen.

The dam burst thereafter. Eight receivers and three tight ends went in the second round, with the Redskins in a sense leading the way. With three picks in the round, the Redskins chose receivers Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly and tight end Fred Davis.

It's no secret that trio has enjoyed limited success so far. The standout of the round two class of '08 is DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles with Eddie Royal of the Denver Broncos just behind him.

Jackson brought big-play capability to the Eagles not only downfield but with his punt returns. He has scored seven touchdowns this season, all of them 48 yards or longer (two of them previously against the Redskins, who play the Eagles Sunday in Philadelphia).

He creates coverage nightmares and game-breaking plays.

"You have to have a guy on him and a guy behind him, helping in any way he can," says Redskins head coach Jim Zorn. "And if he does touch the ball, you have to make him pay."

Maybe the Redskins can send him a bill. Back in Week 7, Jackson scored on a 67-yard reverse less than two minutes into the game and then caught a 57-yard touchdown pass in the Eagles' 27-17 victory at FedExField.

The maturation of receivers can be a slow process. Thomas has one touchdown reception, Kelly none. We're talking career here. They're not the only receivers taken a year ago who have yet to find their way.

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Limas Sweed and he has seven catches. The Buffalo Bills took James Hardy and he has nine. The Cincinnati Bengals picked Jerome Simpson, who caught one pass as a rookie.

Donnie Avery was the first of the receivers selected, going 33rd overall to the St. Louis Rams. He quickly established himself as a deep threat and has 83 career receptions for seven touchdowns. The Redskins then selected Thomas.

Next was Jordy Nelson, going to the Green Bay Packers. He has 47 catches, four for touchdowns. Hardy and Royal followed. Then Simpson. Then Jackson. Then Kelly and Sweed.

Of the three tight ends, John Carlson has been the most notable. He promptly moved into the Seattle Seahawks' starting lineup on day one and has 89 catches, eight for scores. The Dallas Cowboys chose Martellus Bennett late in the round – he has 33 receptions for four touchdowns. Davis has 26 catches, one for a touchdown.

Not all of these players were in the best position to make instant contributions. Thomas and Kelly came in behind Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El and Davis backed up Chris Cooley, a Pro Bowler. Sweed can't unseat Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward. Nelson is caught in a numbers game in Green Bay, where Donald Driver and Greg Jennings dominate.

Jackson found the perfect situation with a team that had an offensive scheme well in place, an established quarterback and the need for exactly his skills.

Paired with rookie Jeremy Maclin, a No. 1 choice this year, the Eagles can put quickness and speed on the outside, with a quarterback (Donovan McNabb) who has been in the same offense for 11 years.

"I always thought our receivers were okay," says Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "We didn't spend quite as high draft picks on them. We've invested there with draft picks (now), very similar to what the Redskins did."

True in part. The Eagles drafted several receivers over the years, to no good end. Todd Pinkston was a No. 2 in 2000. He played five middling seasons in Philly. Freddie Mitchell was a No. 1 pick in 2001 and never really cut it. Reggie Brown was a No. 2 in 2005 and he has been eclipsed. They fiddled with Billy McMullen, Greg Lewis and Hank Baskett as well.

Jackson can do it all for the Eagles, and he does do it all. He has five touchdown catches, one rushing touchdown and another on an 85-yard punt return.

"He's a talented player," McNabb says. "You want to try to get the ball in his hands. Give him some time. He's going to develop into one of the great ones."

There's always hope with receivers. Right up until there isn't.

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