Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Running back
On the roster: Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson, Mack Brown, Keith Marshall, Matt Jones
The numbers: Have six, likely to keep 3-4 on final roster.
Locks: Kelley, Perine, Thompson
A year ago, Kelley was in the long shot category here, the “9th-string” running back (in the words of Jay Gruden) and it looked like a practice squad spot would be a great achievement for him. You all know how the year turned out for the undrafted free agent. He is likely to be the starter but it remains to be seen how many carries he gets. Take the over on his 2016 total of 168 but predicting 200 might be high, depending on how things develop.
Part of those developments that will affect Kelley is how well Perine progresses. The fourth-round rookie was not drafted to sit and learn; they want him to get his hands on the ball. I suspect that his workload will be light early in the season but as they get into November and December Perine could lead the team in rushing some games.
Thompson could be another player who takes carries away from Kelley. The third-down back averaged 5.6 yards on 103 carries over the last two years and Gruden may be tempted to try to get some of that production on first and second downs.
On the bubble: Brown, Marshall
Brown showed some flash in the preseason and he had a 61-yard TD run late in a rout of the Bears. But making to roster or not may not be in his control. It may come down to a numbers game. If they carry four tight ends, running back might be a good spot to shave back a spot to make room. If they carry three TE’s, Brown could stick as the fourth RB.
Marshall battled injuries throughout his career at Georgia and he spent last year on injured reserve. He has some speed and in OTAs he turned heads with some nice bursts off tackle. Still, he’s looking up at four players on the depth chart and four is the maximum the team will carry on the 53. If everyone stays healthy he moves into the long shot category and the 2016 seventh-round pick could be ticketed for a year on the practice squad.
Long shots: Jones
It’s rare that a player suffers a fall like Jones did. He was the unquestioned starter going into last season and in his seven starts he was on pace to gain over 1,000 yards rushing. But fumbles and other issues got him into Gruden’s doghouse and even new agent Drew Rosenhaus is going to be able to do much about it. Absent a serious injury or a suspension players who fall so far and so hard are few and far between.