With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Running backs

Starter: Rob Kelley
Other roster locks: Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine
On the bubble: Mack Brown

How the running backs compare:

To the 2016 Redskins: It appears that Matt Jones, the unquestioned starter at this time a year ago, is headed out either via a trade or on the waiver wire. Kelley didn’t play much before becoming the starter in Week 8. If you project his numbers in the final nine games over 16 games, you have a 1,000-yard rusher. The big improvement is in the depth. Perine could be a starting caliber back in a year if not sooner. How productive his unit can be may depend largely on how often Jay Gruden chooses to run the ball. Somewhat better


To the rest of the NFL: You have one of the better third-down backs around in Thompson. But other than that, it’s a former undrafted free agent who essentially has half a season under his belt and a fourth-round pick without an NFL carry. There is potential but it’s hard to rank to too high right now. Bottom third


2017 outlook

Biggest upside: It will be interesting to see what Kelley can get done if he gets a full season as the starter. As noted, if you projected his nine starts over 16 games, you have a 1000-yard rusher. That’s not a high bar in the NFL these days but it would be enough for the pass-first Redskins to maintain a solid run threat.

Most to prove: Brown showed what he can do with a 61-yard touchdown run against the Bears. But if he makes the team—and the chances of him doing that are very good—he will be stuck behind two young backs on the depth chart. Even Thompson might get carries before he does. It will take some patience on Brown’s part while he waits for his opportunity.


Rookie watch: A lot of fans want Perine to start, or at least get a lot of chances, right off the bat. He knows how to run the ball but he needs to improve as a pass protector, something that most rookie running backs need to learn. The Oklahoma product will catch on but don’t look for him to challenge Kelley until later this year or, more likely, in 2018.

Bottom line: There is a lot of projection needed here. The only known quantity is Thompson. Brown should be able to push his way onto the team, which will set up an interesting weekly battle to see if he or Perine will be the third active back on game days. You may say Perine is the easy pick but Brown’s special teams play is very important. In any case, we’re all just going to have to watch and see how this group takes place.


Jay Gruden on his running backs:

I think we’re all very excited about the prospect of him [Perine] being a running back here. But I’m still excited about Rob. He hasn’t had many good looks. Perine and Chris Thompson have done some good things – Mack Brown. Matt Jones. So, we’ll just keep rotating them through there and see who the best ones are.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.


2017 Redskins position outlook series: Wide receiver | Defensive line | Offensive line | Inside linebacker | Defensive line |