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.
Additions: Derrius Guice (drafted round 2)
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.
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