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Devin Thomas training as a flanker, Malcolm Kelly studying up on split end

This is an update on the status of our two first day wide receiver picks as well as on the emerging playbook under Head Coach Jim Zorn. Timely, too, as it comes hours after this FanPost by Ach where he wonders what immediate impact either receiver will have in the coming season. I guess that all depends on how willing Coach Zorn is to line up in three-receiver sets. Hat tip to Extreme Skins on this Pro Football Weekly article:

"I feel like I picked up on it pretty quick," [Devin] Thomas told PFW. "I noticed it’s a big playbook, so I am going to have to keep learning, but overall it’s not that hard." Thomas has been learning the "Z" (flanker) position so far, while Kelly has been working at the "X" (split end). "It’s the West Coast offense, so there are going to be a lot of three- and four-wide sets, so there will be a chance for me to get playing time," Kelly told PFW.

Before we get into just what those terms mean (and most of you probably know, but a quick refresher never hurts) the article also notes that Kelly and Thomas happened to bunk together when they visited Dallas and that Thomas believes he'll be getting some down-field and redzone looks.

Where are the flanker and split end? Look for the red dot, first, the flanker:



Look for the red dot, now, the split end:



I suppose helpful explanations are available for flanker here and slit end here. Thing to keep in mind is that neither Kelly nor Thomas is being groomed as a slot receiver (yet) which I suppose means that if/when either gets on the field in a three-receiver set, that means if we have a slot receiver, it will be ARE or Moss or a tight end. That would be -- and again, you probably know this -- the red dot on the right side if he came off the line of scrimmage and the flanker moved up to it (thus becoming a split end). I like fast slot receivers because they can more easily go right after the safeties and/or mix it up with the linebackers (or nickel back) thus creating mismatches.

Or it could mean we're running three-receiver sets such as the one pictured directly above, where ARE and Moss are lined up as split ends and Thomas is the flanker... but where does that leave Kelly? I'm a bit surprised that neither is being groomed or learned as a slot, but Coach knows best.

As I mentioned in the fanpost by Ach, I think the likelihood of both Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El making it through a 16 game season 100% healthy is, unfortunately, a tall order. Antwaan missed a game last year and three starts whereas Santana Moss hasn't played a full season since 2005 (though what a season that turned out to be for him).

But we need not worry about their injuries since we are blessed with a good problem to have; too many wide receivers. While I'm trying to find ways Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas will see the field, the reality is that I should simply be rejoicing in the fact that even if we suffer a typical injury bug at receiver we won't be substantially downgraded because of the depth at that position. And it doesn't stop with Kelly and Thomas, either, as we still have Anthony Mix -- who we all felt would challenge for the 3rd receiver spot prior to the draft -- and veteran James Thrash. And behind them are a gaggle of receivers we can place on the practice squad, all of them tall: Billy McMullen is 6'4, Maurice Mann is 6'1, Horace Gant is 6'3, and Burl Toler at 6'2. As of right now, ARE and Moss are the only receivers on the team listed under six feet.