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Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?


Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job?

In less than a year, the Redskins completed a stunning turnaround, ascending from a laughingstock in 2014 to a division champion in 2015. But now comes the difficult part: taking that all-important next step and improving from a franchise that was fortunate to get into the playoffs to one that can do some damage once it gets there. And that work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the 25 biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

No. 11

Is Matt Jones ready to assume the Redskins' No. 1 running back job? 

Tandler: Last year rookie running back Matt Jones played like, well, a rookie. He had some moments like a 78-yard touchdown rumble with a screen pass against the Saints where he looked like he could be a very valuable player if not a star. At other times, like when he didn’t protect the ball and fumbled into the end zone against the Giants, he looked like a player who needed a lot of work.

It added up to Jones gaining 490 on 144 carries and three touchdowns on the ground and another 304 yards on 19 pass receptions. He fumbled four times and lost all of them and he missed one game with a knee injury and the last two regular season games and the playoff game with a hip pointer.

With Alfred Morris likely to depart as a free agent the role of “lead dog” running back will be vacant. The Redskins will need to look at Jones’ mixed bag and figure out if he can take the next step in 2016.

It’s going to come down to how much faith they have in Jones’ desire to do the little things that a professional has to do to stay on the field and refine his craft. He took a step in the right direction later in the season when he started coming in to Redskins Park on off days to physically recover from the pounding on game days.

But it takes more than that. He had 38 runs that went for either no gain or a loss of yardage last year. Blocking was the problem on many of those runs but at other times it was a matter of Jones not reading the play correctly. Getting that down requires a lot of work, both on and off of the field. He has the size and speed to be a very good No. 1 back if he puts in the time.

El-Bashir: Matt Jones showed off his immense talent as a rookie, but it came in fits and starts. In fact, I’m not sure anyone on the Redskins’ roster was as inconsistent from week to week as Jones. But that’s often the life of an NFL rookie, and I suspect the Florida product will be a more consistent player in 2016 as the game slows down for him.

But I’ve got a couple of concerns as it relates to today’s question: Jones’ fumbles and his health.

Let’s start with the fumbles. As I pointed out in my rookie review last month, Jones put the ball on the ground five times and ended up losing it four times. (Tampa Bay’s Doug Martin was the only running back to lose more fumbles with five.) Jones’ ball security, though, did improve in the second half of the season. In fact, he lost only one fumble in his final six games after losing three in his first seven.

Jones’ ability to stay healthy was a problem, too. He missed three regular season games and the playoff game with toe and hip injuries. As I’ve said before, blaming injuries on a player isn’t fair. But the NFL isn't fair, either. In this game, availability is almost as important as ability. And Jones was unavailable too often last season. He did tell me on locker clear out day that he learned late in the year about the importance of spending time in the training room, even when you’re not suffering from a specific injury.

It seems Jones recognizes his flaws and is taking steps toward correcting them. But is that enough to hand him the keys to one of the game’s most important positions? I suspect this is one of the tougher decisions facing GM Scot McCloughan this offseason.  

If it were my call, I’d give Jones the opportunity to be the No. 1. But I’d also have a solid backup plan in place—just case it doesn’t work out. 

25 Questions series

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Don't expect Redskins to call Colin Kaepernick, per report

USA Today Sports

Don't expect Redskins to call Colin Kaepernick, per report

After losing Alex Smith for the rest of the season with a broken leg, Colt McCoy will take over as the Redskins starting quarterback. 

In turn, that means the Redskins need a new backup quarterback. Washington does not have another passer on the roster or the practice squad, and with the trade deadline already passed, the 'Skins have to turn to available free agents or other practice squad players. 

There are a number of candidates available for the job, and a few names the Redskins are bringing in for workouts on Monday. 

One name that won't get called: former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. 

From Mike Florio:

Another source tells PFT that team president Bruce Allen previously has made clear within the organization his position that Kaepernick won’t be signed by Washington, ever.

Florio explained that the Redskins have not reached out to Kaepernick and will not be reaching out. 

Certainly a capable passer, Kaepernick guided the 49ers to the 2012 Super Bowl and has a career 60 percent completion rate with 72 TDs against 30 INTs in 58 career starts. 

There is more to the situation, obviously. As a political activist, Kaepernick works to bring light to racial inequality and law enforcement issues across the country, and he famously began to kneel while the national anthem was played before NFL games. He hasn't played in the NFL since 2016. 

There are some ties to Kaepernick with the Redskins. 

To start, Kaepernick played with Smith in San Francisco, before replacing him as the starting QB in 2012. Additionally, Redskins QB coach Kevin O'Connell worked on that Niners staff. 

Regardless, per the report, don't expect Kaepernick to get considered in Washington.


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Redskins Trey Quinn and Jordan Reed were ready for emergency quarterback duty after Alex Smith's injury

Redskins Trey Quinn and Jordan Reed were ready for emergency quarterback duty after Alex Smith's injury

FEDEX FIELD — The last we saw Redskins rookie wide receiver Trey Quinn was the third quarter of the first game of the season on Sept. 9. 

Sunday afternoon against the Houston Texans, in his first game back from a right ankle injury, Quinn found himself a heartbeat away from playing quarterback. 

That wasn’t the plan when the day started. But no one could have known that starting quarterback Alex Smith would sustain a broken leg. With backup Colt McCoy in the game and taking shots all over the place, Quinn and tight end Jordan Reed were the options if another injury struck. 

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Quinn was his guy if McCoy went down. Third-string quarterbacks are rarely active anyway, but Washington doesn’t have one on its 53-man roster or its practice squad. 

“If it came to that I’d have to go in there and make some plays,” Quinn said. “I was ready.”

Quinn is no quarterback, but he is a great athlete. At 12 he pitched in the Little League World Series and threw a no-hitter. He still holds the Louisiana state record for receptions (357) and receiving yards (6,566) and played two years at LSU and two more at SMU before the Redskins drafted him in the seventh round with the final selection of the 2018 draft. 

Quinn hurt his right ankle feeling a punt in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 and just returned from injured reserve this week. 

Reed actually was a quarterback in high school and was recruited at that position by the University of Florida. He even played there some as a redshirt freshman and had three touchdown passes to one interception, but quickly moved to tight end. He, too, was ready – but the coaches weren’t exactly telling him to warm up. 

“Nah. Because you don’t even want to put that in the atmosphere” Reed said.

Jinxes aside, Quinn and Reed didn’t need to step in at quarterback to contribute. Both had big days. Reed caught seven passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Quinn moved right into the slot receiver position vacant for so long with Jamison Crowder hurt and caught four passes for 49 yards. 

Reed and Smith, before his injury, did have a hiccup in the end zone. A pass intended for Reed was intercepted and returned 101 yards for a touchdown by Texans safety Justin Reid. On that 3rd-and-8 play, Reed ran what Gruden called a “swoll” route. But Smith had to step around Texans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney and the nose tackle was looping toward him as well. Reed took an angle toward the ball Smith didn’t expect. 

The quarterback didn’t have clear vision of where his tight end was and had to rush the pass. The result gave Houston a 17-7 lead instead of what could have been a 10-10 game or even a Redskins’ lead.

Reed more than made up for it with his touchdown catch one play after McCoy had to come in for the injured Smith. That catch cut the Houston lead to 17-14 with 4:47 left in the third quarter. 

Quinn, meanwhile, caught a 15-yard pass on a 2nd-and-11 to get the ball down to the Houston 15 with 47 seconds left in the first quarter. Three plays later running back Adrian Peterson was in the end zone and the Texans’ lead was cut to 10-7. 

Quinn also had a 13-yard catch on a 3rd-and-6 in the second quarter to get the ball to the Houston 16. That came on the ill-fated drive that ended with the 101-yard interception return. 

Quinn’s 11-yard catch with 33 seconds to go was Washington’s last one of the game and got the ball to the Houston 45. Three plays later, kicker Dustin Hopkins’ 63-yard field goal attempt to win it fell short.

Quinn was also immediately inserted into the lineup as the punt returner, but the only Texans punt went out of bounds. Expect him back in that role against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.  

“Trey had a real big game for us,” Reed said. “He’s a good player. He’s a real good player.”