The word disappointment has been tossed around numerous draft picks from the Washington Redskins over the years. Former Oklahoma WR Malcolm Kelly has yet to distance himself from that label.
When the Redskins drafted Kelly in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, they envisioned him as a top flight red zone target and possession receiver who could finally complement Santana Moss. After all, Kelly has a Randy Moss-like frame, which goes along nicely with his soft hands.
However, things have yet to click for Kelly now entering his third year as a professional. Kelly has struggled through a pair of seasons with a bad knee and poor technique. He admitted that his route running in 2009 was under par, and he never displayed the speed or strength necessary to create separation from defenders.
Kelly has yet to catch a TD pass in the NFL and last year had just 25 receptions for 347 yards in 10 starts.
The Jim Zorn regime failed to bring out the best in players, leading many to believe Kelly will flourish under the guidance of new coach Mike Shanahan. Kelly certainly possesses the physical traits to be dominant. Not all receivers are blessed with his wingspan and 6-4 height.
Even with that size, Kelly has never been able to assert himself. He is lanky, but that doesn't excuse his inability to muscle his way past the average corners who cover him. Kelly is often matched up against the number two corner on opposing defenses, and yet he struggles to get open.
The reasons are many for Kelly's struggles. He doesn't have a great burst and seems afraid to fight off bump and run coverage. His route running improved by the end of last season, but he often appeared to be going through the motions on the field.
It is likely a matter of confidence for Kelly. He may never emerge as an elite receiver, but there is no reason a player of Kelly's make-up can't establish himself as a legitimate threat in any passing game.
Proper coaching will ensure that Kelly prepare more carefully for each game. If Kelly learns to focus and lets the game come to him instead of thinking through every move he makes during a game, then he will gain that extra step, that extra edge which should allow him to get by undersized defensive backs.
However, he must first make the team. There are rumblings in some circles that suggest Kelly may not make the final roster unless he can display that he can produce in the preseason and training camp.
The 'Skins aren't loaded with talented receivers, but there are several players expected to push Kelly for a roster spot. Joey Galloway is experienced and Mike Furrey was signed this offseason to compete for time in the slot.
Neither player has Kelly's potential, but both have delivered in the past. For a long time, Galloway was a prolific receiver while Furrey made an impact playing for Mike Martz in Detroit several years ago. Kelly has yet to log any significant accomplishments in the stat sheet, which could very well be his undoing.
Kelly does have his draft status on his side. Washington invested a second round pick in him, and they aren't likely to pull the plug on him for a couple of veterans past their prime. It would be hard to give up on Kelly given his attributes especially if he flashes his potential before the start of the season.
That being said, the pressure is still squarely on Kelly. All he can do now is put the past two seasons behind him and prove to the new coaching staff that he can be an impact player for Donovan McNabb in the passing game. He'll have 30 days and four preseason games to do it.