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Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

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USA Today Sports

Jamaal Charles headlines a group of Redskins running back tryouts

Jamaal Charles used to be among the best running backs in the NFL, and maybe the Redskins hope to turn back the clock. 

Washington is dealing with a number of injuries at the running back spot, and to get through two more preseason games, the team is bringing in a number of veteran runners for tryouts. Charles is the biggest name coming in for a test drive with the Redskins, as ESPN reported. Former Giants RB Orleans Darkwa is also getting a tryout, per multiple reports. 

How did Washington get to the point where the team needs to add more backfield options in mid-August?

First, Derrius Guice injured his knee in the preseason opener. He will miss the season. 

In the second preseason game, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall and rookie Martez Carter got hurt. Perine should be back in a week or as he suffered only a sprained ankle. Marshall could miss a month, making a roster spot flimsy, and Carter was waived due to his injury. 

That means the Burgundy and Gold only have Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson active for practice, and remember, Thompson is working back from a broken leg he suffered last November. He hasn't played yet in the preseason, and might not go at all until Week 1 in Arizona.

Add all of that together and the team was forced to bring in veteran options, if for nothing else than to get through the remaining two preseason games.

Back to Charles.

From 2009 to 2014, Charles put up absurd numbers. He approached 2,000 total yards from scrimmage in both 2013 and 2010, and put up more than 1,700 total yards in 2012. It's worth adding that Charles found great success with Alex Smith when both were playing in Kansas City. Just saying. He was undeniably great, and probably won thousands of people thousands of dollars as a fantasy football MVP.

That time appears to be over though.

In the last three seasons, injuries have robbed Charles of his burst and elusiveness. Last year, he couldn't break through in the Denver backfield despite being healthy for 14 games. He rushed for just under 300 yards. 

Redskins fans will have unfortunate memories of Darkwa.

In an ugly Week 17 loss last season in New York, he busted a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage and finished the game with 154 yards. Last season was the best of his career for Darkwa, he ran for more than 750 yards and averaged 4.4 yards-per-carry. He's only 26 years old and, coincidentally, played college football at Tulane with Rob Kelley

By adding Guice in the second round of the NFL Draft this spring, the Redskins thought they addressed their need for a talent boost at the RB position. With Guice out for the year, the position looks about the same as it did in 2017. 

Adding Charles and Darkwa seem unlikely to change that, at least significantly. And that's if either of the veteran runners even make the 53-man roster. 

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For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

For Redskins, even without Alex Smith, focus remains on 2018, not 2019

Redskins fans can be an odd bunch.

The team suffered a major loss on Sunday when Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, and for many supporters on social media, the questions all turned to what happens at quarterback next season. Can Smith return? Will the team draft another passer? What are the salary cap implications of the injury?

Jay Gruden had a simple message about where his mind was focused after the 23-21 loss to Houston on Sunday.

"To Dallas," the head coach said. "We're excited about it."

For the Redskins, the only thing to think about is winning on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. At 6-4, Washington remains in first place in the NFC East, holding a one game lead over the Cowboys. 

While it might seem like the playoff hopes vanished when Smith got carted off the field, Redskins players and coaches don't see it that way. 

"I have confidence in Colt, always have. I'm a big, firm believer in Colt McCoy's ability to play football in the National Football League. This is an opportunity of a lifetime for him. I know he would like it in different circumstances but things happen for a reason," Gruden said. 

Particularly for McCoy, there is no looking ahead to 2019. He's not even looking ahead to December. The former University of Texas star is going to take his opportunity one game at a time, and that starts Thursday in Dallas.

"You never like to see how it happened today, but for me I just have to go out there and give it all I’ve got. I’ve been a starter before, had it taken away, and it’s not a good feeling," McCoy said. "We have a good team here and they’ve got us in great shape, Alex [Smith] has got us in great shape, we’ve just got to go continue to play football.”

In less than a half against Houston, McCoy moved the Redskins offense and energized the crowd. On just his second snap, McCoy threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Reed. On the day, McCoy finished with 54 yards passing and another 35 yards on the ground. 

McCoy won't be Smith, but that isn't all bad.

Despite two interceptions on Sunday, Smith basically protects the football like a mother grizzly bear protects her cubs. McCoy will take more chances, and that could mean more big plays and more scoring for the Redskins offense. It could also mean more turnovers, but that's probably something Gruden will live with. 

Remember, too, this Redskins coaching staff believes in McCoy. 

When the organization was considering all options with Kirk Cousins last season, handing the team over to McCoy was a possible option. Or at least letting McCoy compete with another veteran free agent passer was taken into account. 

McCoy knows that Gruden's comments are sincere, and he knows this is a major chance for him to prove he belongs as an NFL starter. 

"I know how Jay [Gruden] wants this offense run," McCoy said. "I’ll do my best to make that happen.”

The Redskins have six games remaining, and four of them will be in the division. Washington's season is anything but over.

The focus for Jay Gruden and Colt McCoy remains firmly on 2018. And with an NFC East title firmly in play, that's what the fans should be looking at too. 

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NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

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USA TODAY Sports

NFC East Update: Division race tightens as Redskins stumble, Cowboys surge

When the sun came up Sunday morning, the Redskins held a two-game lead in the NFC East and looked to have a clear route to a division title. 

By the time the sun went down, a lot changed. 

Washington lost at home in a crazy game to Houston, but big picture, the more important outcome was the broken leg for Alex Smith. The Redskins now turn to backup Colt McCoy, and while the Burgundy and Gold remain in first place, their lead shrunk.

Washington Redskins (6-4, 2-0)

Talk about a roller coaster game. The Redskins got down early to the Texans, trailing 10-0 in the first quarter, but fought all the way back. In the process, the team lost Smith for the season, but McCoy played well when he entered the game. A veteran in Jay Gruden's system, McCoy should be able to step in and run the offense without any hesitation. Will that be enough? What isn't being talked about in Washington: a suddenly slumping run defense. A huge game looms Thursday against Ezekiel Elliott and a surging Cowboys squad. 

Up next: Nov. 22 @ Dallas, 4 p.m.

Dallas Cowboys (5-5, 2-1)

It seemed like the Cowboys season was over a few weeks ago after a humbling home loss on Monday Night Football to the Titans. Two weeks later, the script has flipped. Dallas won their second straight game on Sunday, holding off a late Atlanta rally and winning the game on a last-second field goal. Elliott went for 201 total yards from scrimmage and the Cowboys young defense continued to make impressive plays. Jerry Jones' team struggles on the road, but at home, the Cowboys are 3-1 this season. 

Up next: Nov. 22 vs Washington, 4 p.m.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-6, 1-1)

Fans waiting for the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles to get it together might want to stop waiting. Philly got boat raced in New Orleans on Sunday, losing 48-7 and dropping to two games below .500. Carson Wentz threw three INTs in New Orleans and really, while the QB was bad in the Superdome, it's hard to pin the Eagles' woes on any one thing. The offense hasn't been very good, and the defense hasn't either. Sitting just two games back of the 'Skins and one behind Dallas, don't count the Eagles out yet. But don't really count them in either. 

Up next: Nov. 25th vs New York Giants, 1 p.m.

New York Giants (3-7, 0-3)

Don't look now but the Giants might be the hottest team in the division. Or at least not the coldest team in the division. The Giants won their second game in a row on Sunday, a nail-biting 38-35 victory over Tampa. New York got out to a big lead before the Bucs crept back in it, but powered by four combined TDs between Saquon Barkley and Eli Manning, the Giants did enough. Simple arithmetic suggests the Giants are closer to a Top 5 draft pick than a playoff run, but hey, they haven't been eliminated yet. Crazy things happen in this league. 

Up next: Nov. 25th @ Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

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