Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take another position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2016 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. This much, however, is not in question: A player is not on the 53-man roster until it's finalized in early September. So who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Running back
On the roster: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Keith Marshall, Mack Brown, Robert Kelley, Joe Kerridge, Kelsey Young
Likely to make the 53: Jones, Thompson, Marshall
As you likely have read countless times here and elsewhere around the internet, the pressure is on Jones to produce. The Redskins running game will only be as good as Jones’ production.
So, Jay Gruden, how is Jones coming along?
“We haven’t done a whole lot in year two yet,” the head coach said during minicamp last month. “There are still a lot of things we have to improve on from pass protection to reading out the runs honestly to ball security. Catching the football, routes, there is a lot he can improve on. There is a lot he has improved on and will improve on. That’s the thing that young backs go through, and the great backs in the history of the NFL, they all just continue to get better and better and that’s what we think Matt will do. He will just continue to get better – bigger and better.”
It looks like it’s so far, so good. But we’ll find out a lot more when the put the pads on in Richmond.
Thompson did not participate in the offseason practices as he rehabbed from offseason shoulder surgery. He is on schedule to be ready for training camp and will resume his role as the third-down back.
After two season of struggling with injuries Thompson learned to stay relatively healthy last year. He missed two games with a bruised back and one with the shoulder. His NFL success and his ability to hold on to his role will hinge on his continued availability.
I debated whether I should put Marshall in the “likely to make the 53” category. His participation in offseason practices was limited due to some nagging injuries. Marshall’s injury issues at Georgia was one of the main reasons he slid to the seventh round in the draft. But he has speed and that will always get a player an extended look. For right now he appears to be on the right side of the roster bubble.
Marshall could be a placeholder for a veteran backup running back who has yet to be signed. There has been plenty of chatter about a Pierre Thomas return. The former Saint averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 9.3 yards per reception in limited action in the last quarter of the Redskins’ season. He seems like the ideal backup for Jones but until the talk turns into a contract Marshall has the upper hand for the third running back roster spot.
Battling for a job: Brown, Kelley, Kerridge, Young
Kelley opened some eyes during offseason practices.
“He has done good,” Gruden said during minicamp. “He is one of those guys that you really don’t know a lot about, but, ‘Who’s number 22? Who is that? That’s Kelley making another big play.’ He has got great, low center of gravity when he runs the ball. I think he is going to be a tough guy to tackle when it’s all said and done. He went to Tulane and did some good things and I think he has a chance. We will see what happens when we get the pads on.”
Kelley is a dark horse candidate for the roster. So is Brown, who had a couple of stints on the practice squad last year.