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 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 90-man roster.
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Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game.
A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards.
At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems.
“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.
“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”
As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place.
Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year.
Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.
Bureau of statistics
In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game.
On the record
Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."
Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information.
Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00
Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days
In case you missed it
- The Redskins week that was—The brawl, the flinch, and following the money
- RB battle fun to watch, but injuries will force tough decisions
- After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back