Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 16, three days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Jets at FedEx Field.
—Today's schedule: Off day
—The Redskins last played a game that counted 219 days ago. It will be 27 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.
—Days until: Final roster cut 18; Cowboys @ Redskins 33; Browns @ Redskins 47
—Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan was born on this date in 1988.
When will it be time to panic about the running game?
The Redskins entered training camp with an unsettled and, for many fans, unsettling situation at running back. They are departing with the same uncertainty.
Matt Jones is still the starter and he has said all of the right things and he has looked pretty good in practice. But it’s hard to tell much about his progress from last year, when he averaged 3.4 yards per carry, the lowest in the league among qualifying backs, when contact is very limited. And even though he didn’t fumble at all during training camp despite the defense constantly pawing at the ball there is not solid evidence that his fumbling problems of last year are a thing of the past.
Jones saw very light action in the Redskins’ preseason opener, gaining on yard on two carries, so there’s nothing to go on there.
Chris Thompson did well catching passes out of the backfield in Richmond and demonstrated his speed on a few runs around the outside. But several times Thompson indicated to reporters that he thinks he’s better off in his role as a third-down back and not working as Jones’ backup.
That leaves Robert Kelley, Keith Marshall, and Mack Brown to fight it out for the role as Jones’ backup. They have all had their moments. Marshall, a seventh-round draft pick this year, may have the inside track but he had minus-one yard in five carries in the preseason opener. Kelley led the team with 40 yards on the ground against Atlanta but 18 of those came on one run. Brown may have been the most consistent of the group, getting 28 yards on seven carries.
The problem with the running game might not be the ball carriers. There were not many openings for the running backs against the Falcons and it’s hard for the best of backs to gain much yardage without blocking.
“We’re going to keep working on it,” said head coach Jay Gruden. “We’re not going to panic in the first preseason game but we also understand that in these games you are who you are and what you put on tape. We’ve got to make sure that we continue to work on it and get better at it. That’s all you can do.”
Would it be panicking if they brought in a veteran running back, a player like Pierre Thomas who could work as Jones’ backup? There has been talk of that since it became apparent that Alfred Morris was on his way out as a free agent. If Jones doesn’t prove that he is worthy of the coaches’ trust and if nobody emerges to establish himself as a reliable backup it would be crazy not to make a move.
The running game issues are not new. After an offseason spent talking about being a power running team, the 2015 Redskins were 20th in the NFL in rushing yards and 30th in yards per carry. At some point, panic, or at least trying something different, is called for.
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