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Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?

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Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?

With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.

How will the workload at running back be shared?

Although Washington DC is famous for trying to solve problems by assembling a committee, the Redskins have not use that approach at their running back position. For the past three seasons Alfred Morris has been the Redskins’ workhorse running back. Since he came into the league in 2012 Morris has owned 86 percent of the team’s tailback carries. But both Morris’ total yards and yards per carry have declined in each of the last two seasons. And Scot McCloughan drafted running back Matt Jones out of Florida in the third round. Will the workload shift with Jones playing a bigger role than predecessors at tailback did?

Tandler: Ever since Jones was drafted with a top 100 pick (95th overall), Jay Gruden has gone out of his way to made sure that everyone knows that Morris is still his No. 1 running back and that Jones would have to earn playing time. That is the right thing for the head coach to say. But don’t listen to what he says, watch what he does.

And what Gruden did was give Jones a lot of work with the first team during OTAs and minicamp, subbing him in for Morris early and often. That doesn’t mean that we’ll see Jones getting a lot of first-quarter carries once the games start to count; it’s always dangerous to make any assumptions based on personnel rotations when they’re wearing shorts in June. But Gruden and company clearly are intrigued by what Jones, who at 6-3, 231 resembles a linebacker carrying the football, can bring to the offense.

I think that Jones will spell Morris more frequently than Roy Helu (40 carries) did last year. But it’s entirely possible that Jones could get a substantial workload without cutting into Morris’ carries. Last year the Redskins ran the ball 401 times; 20 teams had more rushing attempts. If we are to believe all of the talk around Redskins Park (and, again, be wary of what they say) the team will run the ball more often this year. It’s possible that Morris will maintain a workload right around the 265 carries he had last year and that the additional carries will go to Jones. Put Morris down for 275 carries for 1,275 yards and Jones for 110 for 495.

El-Bashir: There are a handful of Redskins starters who will be looking over their shoulder when the team gets to Richmond. And I suspect Morris will be one of them.

As Tandler mentioned, it was indeed interesting that Jones seemed to get more reps with the first team than other backups, particularly in minicamp last month. Gruden cautioned reporters not to read too much into personnel rotations. So I’m trying not to. I really am. But I just can’t help myself. Coaches get limited on-the-field time with their players in the offseason, therefore everything is done for a reason. And Jones getting those reps was, in my opinion, done for a reason.

Morris has been a very productive running back the past three seasons. And, according to Gruden, he has enjoyed “as good [an offseason] as anybody in this building.” And that may be true. But his production has declined. He’s a rugged runner who’s carried the ball almost 900 times the past three years. He’s also entering the last year of his contract and there’s a new coach—ground game guru Bill Callahan—bringing new ideas to the Redskins’ running attack.

We’ll get a much better feel for the workload split in a few weeks. But as I’ve said before, I think Jones is going to play a much bigger role this season than many are anticipating. How big a role? My prediction: Morris gets 225-240 carries (down from 265 last season) and Jones gets 75 carries, while Robert Griffin III and Chris Thompson chip in often, as well.

Previously on Redskins preseason Q&A:

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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