Antonio Gibson hurt his toe in Monday's win over Pittsburgh and is doubtful to play this coming weekend in San Francisco.
Washington can rely on shifty J.D. McKissic and powerful Peyton Barber, but the team will need a third running back to take on the 49ers.
The good news for Washington is they added practice squad running back Javon Leake last month.
An undrafted rookie out of the University of Maryland, Leake totaled 145 carries for 1,144 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns for the Terps over the course of three seasons. He was arguably most effective on special teams, where he returned three kickoffs for scores over his final two seasons in College Park. Leake was named the Big Ten's Rodgers-Dwight Return Specialist of the Year in 2019.
The team signed Leake to the practice squad on November 19th, and he practiced on November 20th, before landing on the Covid list November 23rd.
Leake was moved back to the practice squad following NFL Covid protocols and could be in line for a real opportunity this weekend.
Washington's return game could use the boost if special teams coach Nate Kazcor feels comfortable with a rookie return man. And while Leake would probably be third on the depth chart for the Niners game, offensive coordinator Scott Turner likes to get all of his backs involved.
This season all three of Gibson, McKissic and Barber have been involved in the offense. Barber's role has been the most limited, primarily on short yardage and goal line situations, though he still has 75 touches through 12 games. That's more than six touches per game, even for the third back.
Leake won't get Barber's role either.
It seems like McKissic will get the bulk of the work, like he did in Pittsburgh after Gibson went down early in the game. Still, McKissic is most effective catching passes out of the backfield.
On the season McKissic has 55 carries and 56 catches. He grabbed 10 passes for 70 yards in the win over the Steelers compared to just five carries for eight yards.
There will be a role for Leake. How the rookie responds will determine how big that role gets.