New Redskins GM Scot McCloughan aimed to improve nearly every position through the draft or via free agency. How has he done? Over the next couple of weeks, Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will examine and rate each group on the team. The ratings will be based on the quality of the players as compared to the rest of the league and, in particular, the division.
We’ll use a scale of 1 to 10. To receive a 10, a position group would need Pro-Bowl caliber starters and solid backups. A rating of 1 means the starters are aging and ineffective and there are no promising reserves in the pipeline.
Starters: Alfred Morris (RB) and Darrel Young (FB).
Reserves: Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Silas Redd.
Tandler: Morris has gained over 1,000 yards in each of his three NFL seasons and he is entrenched as the starter. He’s not an elite back as he is not a threat to score from anywhere on the field and he is limited as a receiver out of the backfield but on a team full of question marks, Morris is not one of them. The organization appears to be very high on Jones, the third-round draft pick who was running so hard in OTAs that the coaches had to tell him to take it easy. The 6-2, 231-lb. rookie is more than just a power back; he has displayed some nimble moves in the second level and very reliable hands out of the backfield. We will see what his role and impact will be but historically rookie running backs are able to contribute quickly. Young is a solid fullback with good hands and the ability to pick up some key yards when called upon. Thompson’s speed has allowed him another chance after two injury-plagued seasons in the NFL; he is an interesting but very unproven prospect as a third-down back. Can Redd, who was a good story last year after making the team as an undrafted free agent, make the roster and contribute? An improved offensive line and an anticipated increase in emphasis on the running game could help make this quite a productive group. But it’s hard to give them a high rating at his point because of the lack of track records for Jones and Thompson. Rating: 6
El-Bashir: So far, I like what I’ve seen and heard about this versatile group. In fact, with a beefed up line, a renewed commitment to the run and ground-game guru Bill Callahan calling the shots, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins rank among the top-3 in rushing offense in 2015. (They slid to 19th last season after ranking 1st and 5th in 2012 and 2013, respectively). And I think they can get there without Robert Griffin III carrying the ball 120 times like he did as a rookie. They can do it by effectively mixing Morris, Jones, Thompson and a little zone read, just to keep defenses honest. Morris will be the grind-it-out bruiser. Jones will be the jack-of-all-trades backup who’s able to break off big yards on any down. And Thompson will be the shifty, speedy, pass-catching third down back who'll allow Jay Gruden and Sean McVay to get creative. Okay, now I know that sounds optimistic for a team that’s won seven games the past two seasons and an offense that produced a meager 18.8 points per game in 2014. And it is optimistic. Perhaps overly so. But I’ve got a good feeling about the revamped O-line, the impact Callahan is making and, especially, the potential Jones possesses. Like every position group, this one still must prove itself. On paper, though, I think it’s got the chance to distinguish itself. Rating: 7.