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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Running backs

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Running backs

Training camp opens in about two weeks and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming couple of weeks, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Running backs

Additions: Derrius Guice (drafted round 2)
Departures: None

Starters: Guice
Other roster locks: Chris Thompson
On the bubble: Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley, Byron Marshall, Kapri Bibbs

How the running backs compare

To the rest of the NFL: As always, it’s hard to separate out responsibility for the Redskins' 2017 average per carry of 3.6 yards, 29th in the NFL. The offensive line sure was banged up but it didn’t always look like the ball carriers were getting the maximum out of each carry. By the end of the year, with Kelley and Thompson on injured reserve and Perine still learning, nobody feared their rushing attack. Besides better health, two things could improve that and lift them into being a solid running back corps. One is Perine continuing to develop by learning to follow his blocks and keep his feet. The other, of course, is Guice. If he lives up to expectations, or comes close to them, the Redskins will have a very competitive group of ball carriers. 

To the 2017 Redskins:  Again, health is the key. If Thompson stays on the field, he adds a stop-notch weapon to the lineup. Guice could be a Pro Bowl caliber player. If Perine and Kelley contribute in some key moments, or Marshall or Bibbs if one of them makes the team, this unit should be much better. 

2018 outlook

Biggest upside: This could be Guice; we will discuss him below. Perine also has a lot of room for growth. When he was drafted in the fourth round many thought he could be a steal. Consistency was a big problem for him. Perine gained 67 yards in Week 2 after Kelley was injured. But after getting 49 the next week against the Raiders he disappeared for about a month, until emerging with back-to-back 100-yard games. Yet he didn’t post more than 53 the rest of the year. Yes, the O-line was banged up, but it didn’t always look like Perine was getting all of the yards his blocking was giving him. 

Most to prove: Kelley is a favorite of Jay Gruden. He went into the 2017 season as the starter, but injuries limited him to just seven games and 194 yards. The former undrafted free agent now has some serious competition for his job. It’s not hard to see Marshall or Bibbs ending up as the fourth RB on the roster. Even if he does make it, his opportunities could be few and far between and Kelley will need to take advantage of every one of them.

Rookie watch: Guice is the most anticipated rookie running back in team history. They have had some good performances by rookie RBs, most recently Alfred Morris in 2012. However, in July, few knew who Morris was. Guice is already one of the most popular players on the team. Will his performance match his Q rating among the fans? His college tape and performance in a helmet and shorts in the offseason program look promising. That can change when going against NFL players on other teams. 

Bottom line: The NFL is a passing league and you win games primarily by passing the ball. That doesn’t mean that having a strong running game isn’t important. The formula successful teams employ is to throw the ball on roughly 65 percent of the snaps to get the lead and then running the ball to preserve it. And you need to have the threat of the run to facilitate the pass when you are trying to build a lead. The Redskins have not had the running game needed to play that way. With Guice and a healthy Thompson, they just might have it now.


Gruden on Guice

Derrius Guice is everything I thought he was and more. He’s a lot faster than I thought. He plays faster – explosive.

2018 position outlook series

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


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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."


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The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

The Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade into the Top 5, unless crazy happens

Holding the 15th pick and with a litany of needs to improve their football team, the Redskins seem highly unlikely to trade up into the top five of the NFL Draft.

Unless Kyler Murray somehow comes available. 

The Redskins, like a host of other NFL teams, believe Murray has transcendent talent. Jay Gruden said so publicly at the NFL Scouting Combine, and privately, Ashburn sources have been clear that Washington considers Murray the top offensive player available in this draft.

Be real though, Murray has no chance of lasting around to Washington's selection with the 15th pick. It's still most likely he's the first player drafted. If Arizona doesn't take Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, things could get interesting. 

A report from New York showed that the Redskins have been talking with the Jets about the third pick, something that NBC Sports Washington suggested could happen as far back as February during the NFL Combine

The problem is the only player worth paying the cost to move up that high is Murray, and again, he seems unlikely to be available. 

One NFC scout explained that of the 2019 quarterback class, only Murray is the type a team would "reach" for. Beyond the Oklahoma Heisman winner, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are good, legitimate first-round prospects, but not the type to "sell the farm to get."

Sure, the Redskins might want a new QB, but it's entirely possible one of those three players last to the 15th pick.

One of the reasons that makes the 2019 draft so intriguing is that after Murray, there is very little consensus ranking the passers. It seems Haskins or Lock will go off the board as the second QB, but which one is up for debate. And Jones has some serious fans around the NFL. For example, Hall of Fame analyst Gil Brandt compared Jones to Peyton Manning. Seriously. 

Any combination of Lock, Haskins and/or Jones could go before 15, but it seems unlikely all three do. One former NFL executive suggested that the Redskins will take either Lock or Haskins if that player is available at 15 though.

If both are gone, and no top defensive player slips to 15 as a result of a quarterback or offensive line run early in the draft, then it's entirely possible the Redskins look to trade back. Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams said as much earlier this week. 

"I’m going to go on the record and say that’s a possibility that we won’t trade up, but there’s a great possibility we’ll trade back if that opportunity came," Williams said on Monday.

The Redskins met with Maryland safety Darnell Savage on Tuesday, and his draft stock likely seems to land somewhere in the bottom third of the first round or early in the second round. The Texans might be looking to move up and get a tackle, and Washington should answer that call if it comes. Houston holds the 23rd pick, and that could make sense as a spot to select Savage. 

Beyond Savage, a player like Boston College offensive lineman Chris Lindstrom could make sense if the 'Skins move back, not to mention Jones. The Duke QB seems unlikely to get past the first round, especially because of the advantage of having a quarterback on a rookie contract. A first-round deal comes with a low cost relative to NFL quarterbacks, and additionally, a fifth-year option. if a QB plays at a high level, that option year holds tremendous value for its team-friendly terms

That Jones seems a possibility at both 15 and at 23 illustrates that there is really no consensus anywhere. 

To that point, one talent evaluator said this draft holds the promise for chaos.

"It's going to be crazy."

For months, Murray seemed to be a lock to go first overall. Now, that doesn't seem like such a sure thing. The debate between Haskins and Lock has never really subsided. There is no clear-cut best wide receiver, or offensive tackle, two spots that often command picks in the Top 10. 

Anything can happen this week, and the Redskins are right in the middle of it all. They want a quarterback - Williams said so - but can't afford to mortgage the future of the franchise. 

Two nuggets to remember this week:

  1. Of the last 12 quarterbacks taken in the first round, 11 were drafted by a team that traded up to get them. The only QB that a team got without trading up? Baker Mayfield, last year's No. 1 overall selection.
  2. The Redskins missed the playoffs the least three seasons. The last time that happened was 2012, when the team mortgaged the future to trade up and select Robert Griffin III.

The only real truth about the 2019 NFL Draft is that nobody knows what's going to happen.

By draft day last season, it was pretty clear the Redskins would take either Daron Payne or Vita Vea. The team needed major help on the defensive line, and those were the two best players believed to be available when Washington picked. At the top of the draft, it was clear Mayfield would go first and the Jets wanted Sam Darnold. That allowed for some stability in projecting what else would happen. 

This year, there are a million scenarios, but no clarity.

Doug Williams summed the situation up very well: "We got the 15th pick at this time, and there are 14 teams in front of us, and you don’t know what’s going to happen. Things happen that you don’t expect."