Speed kills. That's the saying around football, anyway, highlighting that true elite speed is hard to find, and harder to defend. Redskins seventh-round rookie running back Keith Marshall is one of the players that has such speed, but on Saturday at rookie minicamp, it wasn't exactly on display.
"He tweaked his hammy a little bit yesterday afternoon, so he wasn’t quite himself," Washington coach Jay Gruden said Saturday. "But yesterday he ran pretty well."
An intriguing prospect, Marshall played college football at theUniversity of Georgia, but a bad knee injury and a roster that included Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb largely kept Marshall off the field. Last season as a senior he recorded just 68 carries in 11 games, though he did average more than five yards per carry. Looking over his college resume, Marshall impressed most as a freshman - before his knee injury - when he played 14 games, rushed for more than 750 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
And, oh yeah, the speed.
Marshall ran a 4.31 40-yard-dash at the NFL Combine, the fastest time of any running back at the combine. And that's not all, Marshall also put up the top performance of any running back in the bench press, throwing up 225 lbs. 25 times.
So yes, Marshall slid to the 7th round, a spot where prospects tend to face long odds of making the 53-man roster. But Marshall is not a typical 7th rounder. He was a highly recruited player out of high school and his measurables look to be off the charts.
Almost more importantly for Marshall, he is joining a team that has an opportunity at running back. While the Redskins look to be comfortable going into the season with second-year pro Matt Jones as their starter, with Silas Redd suspended for the year, the team does not have much depth. Veteran Chris Thompson will compete with Jones, but at 5'8", 193 lbs., Thompson likely cannot withstand the beating of an NFL runner. Thompson is tough - illustrated by playing through a myriad of injuries in 2015 - but the 'Skins will still need another runner to complement Jones.
Could it be Marshall? That remains to be seen, but he has a chance if he can put it together on the field. For now, Gruden is not in a hurry to see it.
"We just want to get him right," the coach said. "We held him back a little bit [Saturday]."
Considering Marshall's pedigree, speed and strength, it's smart for the Redskins to wait it out and truly see what the rookie RB is capable of doing. There's no need to push it, especially in May.