For much of the offseason, conversation surrounding the Redskins running back group revealed a startling lack of experience. When starter Matt Jones left Friday night's game with a strained AC joint in his left shoulder, that lack of experience became a reality.
As Washington waits to hear the results and severity of Jones' injury, the team now looks to a future with rookies Robert Kelley or Keith Marshall playing a significant role in the run game alongside third-year pro Chris Thompson, who is best suited as a third down back and pass catcher.
Further, neither Kelley nor Marshall has done much to distinguish themselves this preseason. In two games, Kelley - who got playing time before Marshall against the Jets - has rushed 10 times for 48 yards. Marshall has 15 carries for 25 yards. Kelley has looked better, but it would be hard to say he has shown enough for the 'Skins to count on him in the regular season in a significant role.
Compounding matters - Jones looked strong on Friday night before the injury. He ran the ball decisively, showing speed and power, on his way to 31 yards on seven carries.
For weeks, it's been discussed if the Redskins would add a veteran RB to their mix, and now, with Jones' injury as the sparkplug, perhaps GM Scot McCloughan will feel forced to make a move. Last year, the team brought in veteran Pierre Thomas for the stretch run of the season, and he produced well for his role.
Thomas is still available, and seems to make the most sense for Washington. He already knows the offense and has the trust of the coaches and players. In four games in 2015, he posted 136 total yards, capable as a runner with a 4.7 yards-per-carry average and as a receiver out of the backfield with a 9.3 YPC average.
At 31-years-old, Thomas would not step in and instantly give the Redskins a top notch run game. In fact, he's likely best suited as a complement to Matt Jones, not a replacement. But just about any player the Skins could sign in late August would best help as a complement, not a panacea. So what other options are still out there?
- Chris Polk - Last seen toting the football for the Houston Texans, Polk has good size and some burst as a runner and is a capable pass catcher. 2015 numbers don't jump off the page, but Polk scored seven TDs over two years (2013, 2014) in Philly, and averaged nearly nine yards per run in 2013. Perhaps a beneficiary of Chip Kelly's system with the Eagles, Polk showed the ability to be a serviceable runner in Houston.
- Ahmad Bradsahw - A two-time Super Bowl champ with the Giants, Bradshaw's last three seasons have ended on the injured reserve. 2015 saw Bradshaw limited to just six games, but in 2014, the nine-year vet averaged 4.7 YPC and accounted for more than 700 total yards. When he's healthy, Bradshaw can move the ball.
- Ray Rice - This name has floated around on Twitter, but seems completely illogical for Washington. Even if you can remove the tremendous PR burden bringing Rice in would represent, this is a player that has not touched an NFL field in two seasons and when he last played averaged just 3.1 YPC in 2013.
- Joique Bell - In 2014, Bell had nearly 1,200 total yards for the Lions to go with eight TDs. A tough runner with good hands, Bell could be counted on for all three downs. In 2015, however, Bell's stats dropped in half, and the five-year veteran accounted for nearly 600 total yards and four TDs. If the Redskins made a move for Bell, they'd sure be hoping to get the 2014 version.
A silver lining with the above listed running backs - or really any RB available at this point - is the Redskins can bargain shop. A veteran minimum deal would likely get any of these players to Ashburn.