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Has Keith Marshall locked up Redskins backup running back spot?

Has Keith Marshall locked up Redskins backup running back spot?

RICHMOND – Watching Redskins practice the last few days, and the sight of a white 39 jersey emerging from a crowd to show blazing speed became routine. That player, rookie running back Keith Marshall, seems to be figuring out Jay Gruden's offense just in time for the first preseason game Thursday night in Atlanta.

While Marshall seemed a bit overwhelmed with calls and protections early in training camp, his recent play shows a rookie picking things up at a fast pace. On two plays Tuesday, Marshall made decisive cuts on runs, reversing course to the weak side of the line after the defense overcommited to the strong side. With a strong plant foot, the change of direction had both power and burst, and Marshall could show his elite speed getting to the open field. 

"Keith's playing at a high level right now," Redskins starting running back Matt Jones said. "Rough first few days of camp but it's all coming together now."

Jones will enter the season as the 'Skins featured runner, and Chris Thompson is locked in as the third-down back. Both Jones and Thompson, Florida and Florida State products respectively, should get plenty of chances to make plays, but so should the backup. In 2015, Jones, getting a workload somewhere between a timeshare and the backup to Alfred Morris, ran the ball nearly 150 times.

While many folks around the NFL still expect the Redskins to bring a veteran RB in to play behind Jones, Washington GM Scot McCloughan did not rule the possibility out but added that he really liked the players the Skins brought into camp. McCloughan drafted Marshall this year, and the 5-foot-11, 220 lbs. rookie has good size and great speed for an NFL runner. He will get his chances.

"He looks great," Jones said. 

Thursday night in Atlanta, a state and stadium he knows well, Marshall will get the chance to carry the ball plenty of times and show the coaches what he can do in live action. Asked if he was ready to carry the load, Marshall smiled and said "absolutely."

"That will be cool, first game back where I have a lot of friends and family," the rookie said. 

No story about Marshall is complete without making mention of his injury history. He lost the bulk of his college career to knee injuries, and even missed time in Redskins rookie camp this summer with a hamstring issue. On the other hand, no story about Marshall is complete without mentioning he was rated as one of the top high school football players in the country before committing to Georgia, and when healthy, produced very strong numbers.

Marshall has no preconception that the backup RB role is his, which is the right attitude for a late-round rookie. 

"I don't know anything about all that. Coach hasn't really told us anything," Marshall said about his place on the depth chart. "I just come out here and do what they tell me to do."

Gruden might not need to declare Marshall the backup if he's able to produce against the Falcons the way he has in practice of late. There will also be plenty of competition for that spot, and Marshall knows it. Players like Robert Kelley, Mack Brown and Kelsey Young will continue to fight for more reps. 

But watching practice, it's become clear that Marshall could emerge with the No. 2 spot. The veteran of the running back group with just three years experience, Thompson smartly would not say that Marshall has solidified himself in the backup role, but Thompson did notice how well the rookie had looked recently.

"You see what he can do out there," Thompson said, and that said enough.

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2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: Montez Sweat and N'Keal Harry are productive for different reasons

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2019 Redskins Draft Bracket: Montez Sweat and N'Keal Harry are productive for different reasons

NBC Sports Washington wants Redskins fans to help decide the team's ideal 2019 first-round pick by voting in the Redskins Draft Bracket on Twitter. Before you vote, though, take in this breakdown of the next matchup.

Montez Sweat and N'Keal Harry both produced a ton at their respective schools and, because of that production, are enticing prospects for NFL teams.

Their skillsets and the reasons they were productive, though, are quite different. That also means the biggest question facing them as they transition to Sundays is quite different, too.

At Mississippi State, Sweat terrorized opposing QBs in both 2017 and 2018, racking up sacks and tackles for loss. He did so thanks to his body type and a surplus of athleticism and burst.

"I see a talent, similar to Danielle Hunter out of LSU, with above-average length and a prospect who should continue to grow into his frame, allowing him to unleash his rush flashes into a consistent attack," Lance Zierlein writes in his evaluation of the edge rusher.

If you didn't hear about Sweat during his college career, you almost certainly know him now thanks to his NFL Combine performance, where he ran the 40-yard dash in a truly absurd 4.41 seconds and checked in with a wild wingspan. He's rising up boards as much as anyone right now thanks to his effort in Indy.

When it comes to most of his physical tools, you can't ask for much more out of a defender. According to Zierlein, however, he could stand to clean things up technically.

"Some will see Sweat as a leggy edge prospect with average play strength and a lack of refinement in his pass rush. ... His transition as an NFL rusher will take some time."

Harry, on the other hand, is almost the opposite. The receiver from Arizona State isn't a freak at all compared to his peers, but when it comes to winning with details and technique, he's fantastic.

"Back-shoulder boss who thrives with contested catch opportunities outside the numbers but lacks explosive traits," says Zierlein. "Harry's ability to body-up opponents and win with ball skills is undeniable, but his inability to find a threatening top gear or shake loose from tight man coverage must be accounted for within his new employer's scheme."

While Sweat's 40-time was in the 99th percentile for his position, for example, Harry's was only in the 45th. But Harry is strong and was about as reliable on the outside as you can be for the Sun Devils the past two years. 

If these two make it to Washington at No. 15, it'll be a very intriguing choice. Both play positions of extreme need and both have a track record of success.

The debate for them, of course, is: Do you take the rare, rare athlete and hope he can become more polished, or take the polished player and hope he can get by without top speed? 

You've heard the case for both players. Now, retweet or like depending on whom you'd prefer to see move on in the bracket.

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Colt McCoy is on crutches, but there isn't yet cause for alarm (VIDEO)

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Colt McCoy is on crutches, but there isn't yet cause for alarm (VIDEO)

UPDATE: Redskins fans got alarmed Sunday when quarterback Colt McCoy showed up at an Indy car race on crutches.

What?

McCoy broke his leg in December on the Monday night stage against the Eagles, but was seen a few weeks later walking around the locker room without a limp.

Thus, the crutches seemed alarming.

Later Sunday, news emerged that McCoy had another surgical procedure on his leg, but is expected to be ready when the 'Skins offseason workouts begin.

***

Colt McCoy broke his leg in December, and a few weeks later was seen in the Redskins locker room moving around without crutches. 

In fact, shortly after his injury, Washington head coach Jay Gruden said that McCoy might have played had the Redskins made the playoffs. 

So it comes at a peculiar moment when McCoy was shown on Sunday moving around with the help of a pair of crutches. 

With Alex Smith expected to miss at least the 2019 season after suffering his own broken leg last fall, some expected McCoy to get a chance at the Redskins top QB spot this fall. 

Then, the team moved to get Case Keenum from Denver in February, which clouded McCoy’s chances. Washington’s top brass explained Keenum and McCoy would battle it out for the QB1 position. 

Now, however, naturally the question comes if the ‘Skins had to acquire Keenum because there was a setback with McCoy’s recovery or another injury popped up. 

Right now, there’s no answer. 

Soon there will be. 

Jay Gruden will talk with the media on Tuesday morning during the NFL League Meetings in Phoenix. While there are plenty of topics to discuss with the Redskins head coach, now McCoy will be high on the list. 

For fans worried by McCoy’s crutches, keep in mind many NFL players get procedures done in the offseason to clean up old injuries or scar tissue. 

It’s March and the Redskins won’t play a game until September. That’s plenty of time. 

Depending on the severity of McCoy’s situation, there could be questions about his availability for offseason workouts or training sessions. 

Another quarterback seems likely to join the Redskins this offseason regardless of McCoy’s availability. 

The team must add a passer on an affordable rookie deal, as neither Keenum or McCoy is under contract beyond this year. Alex Smith is, but it’s not even close to a given he can return by 2020, despite carrying more than $20 million in salary next year. 

Stay tuned. NBC Sports Washington will be on the ground in Phoenix and working to clarify the McCoy situation. 

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