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Redskins 2017 roster battles: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

Redskins 2017 roster battles: How will Kelley and Perine share the carries?

The Redskins go into OTAs with competition for jobs and depth chart position at several spots on the field. Over the next week, Redskins insiders Rich Tandler and J.P. Finlay look at how these competitions stand right now and they each make the case for a potential winner.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end | Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker

Running back

The contenders:

Last year, undrafted rookie Rob Kelley was the hunter. He bided his time on the bench, watching Matt Jones as the starter for the first seven games of the season. When Jones faltered, Kelley was ready to step in. He rushed for 87, 97, and 137 yards in his first three games as the starter but he didn’t top 76 yards after that. Still, Jay Gruden has heaped praise on Kelley all offseason and said that he will line up with the first team when OTAs get underway later this month.

But Gruden didn’t love Kelley enough to bypass his potential replacement in the draft. After buzz that they might go after a running back in the first round, the Redskins took Samaje Perine out of Oklahoma in the fourth round. Kelley is now the hunted. Perine is a powerful runner who should immediately get snaps on short yardage and near the goal line. But he could end up being more than a fantasy touchdown vulture for Kelley.

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And the winner is . . .

Tandler: I don’t see any way that Kelley is not the running back on the field for the first offensive play of the year against the Eagles, making him the “starter.” After that, all bets are off. How it unfolds as the season wears on will be interesting to watch. Kelley was a great story last year but he was just an OK performer. His average of 4.2 yards per carry was 19th among qualifying backs in the NFL. In his nine games as a starter he averaged 3.98 per carry, which would have ranked 26th. A middle of the pack performance should not land Kelley on the bench but it should have Gruden and company looking for more.

The improvement could come from Kelley stepping up in his second season. Or it could come from Perine, who averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his four seasons at Oklahoma. Perine needs to translate that to the pros, of course, and that’s not a given. But he should get a shot and be a part of a three-man running back committee (with Chris Thompson getting some chances as the third-down back). We will see how it shakes out over the course training camp, the preseason, and when the games start to count.

Finlay: The rush to annoint Perine needs to slow down a bit. As Tandler said, the former Sooner will help immediately in short yardage and particularly at the goal line, but this will remain Kelley's job. Folks around Redskins Park have been impressed with Kelley's offseason work, first rehabbing from surgery to clean up his knee, and over the last few weeks, his time in the weight room. The word is "Fat Rob" will no longer be deserving of the nickname, as he has gotten stronger in advance of the 2017 season.

A humble, undrafted rookie last season, Kelley should be able to maintain his quick feet to the hole, and ability to avoid defenders, that Gruden liked so much in 2016. Thompson will continue to be a key part of the Redskins offense as well. Pencil him in for five to eight touches per game, and occasionally more based on matchups. 

Perine will help the 'Skins in the red zone, and the team needs it. He scored 49 touchdowns in three seasons at Oklahoma, and Washington can use that type of productivity near the goal posts. Remember, however, that Perine is leaving the wide open Big 12, and Oklahoma's spread offense, for an NFL with much, much tougher defenses. Often the hardest part for rookie running backs in the NFL is to adjust to the speed of pass rushers, and understand where to be in pass protection. Perine is strong - the strongest RB in the 2017 Draft - but the knowledge of blitz pickup will have to come quick if he's going to truly push Kelley for carries. 

It's also a bit wild to think of 2015 third-round pick Matt Jones as an afterthought, but he is. Jay Gruden had to be reminded of Jones' presence on the roster during a media session in Arizona, and reports showed the Redskins tried to trade their former RB1 around the draft. With Kelley, Thompson, Perine and Mack Brown, there is a real question if Jones makes the roster. A big body with good speed, Jones has a lot of potential in the NFL. Whether that gets harnessed, in D.C. or elsewhere, will also be worth watching. 

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Report: Months after major leg injury, Reuben Foster regains feeling in toes

Report: Months after major leg injury, Reuben Foster regains feeling in toes

The Redskins signed linebacker Reuben Foster late in the 2018 season after his release from San Francisco amid domestic violence allegations. The signing caused tremendous backlash towards the organization, but in the end, it was supposed to be worth it for what Foster could do on the field. 

Eventually, charges against Foster got dropped and he wasn't suspended by the NFL. Unfortunately for him and for the Redskins, Foster got injured in his first snap of offseason team activities in May 2019, and it was a major injury. 

The scene on the field that day was traumatic as Foster was visibly in intense pain. In the news that emerged after the injury, Foster had torn multiple ligaments in his knee and NBC Sports Washington reported there was nerve damage in the leg as well. 

Now, it seems like there is finally some positive momentum for Foster's injury. His agent Malki Kawa spoke to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: "He's got feeling in his toes, the underside of his foot, the side of his foot. The nerve is starting to fire again."

The alarming part here is that Foster had lost feeling in his toes, and for a long period of time too. Foster's injury happened last May. 

Rehabbing a knee is one thing, football players do that all the time. But nerves operate almost on their own, and some nerve damage is irreperable. 

"He's regaining feeling and power," Kawa said. "It shows the nerve is firing. When he moves his leg upward, he can feel around the ankle and the top part of the foot. That's a new thing. The next 60 days are going to be big as far as getting back to normal."

The Redskins know about scary nerve injuries. Promising rookie safety Kyshoen Jarrett sustained nerve damage in his arm in Week 17 of the 2015 season, and never played again. Two years ago, cornerback Quinton Dunbar dealt with a nerve issue in his leg and was basically lost for the year. 

What happens next for Foster will be interesting to watch. 

Kawa said the next 60 days will be important, and that timeline also coincides with more Redskins offseason work. After such a significant injury, it would be premature to make any assumptions about Foster's return to the field, and if/when that happens, his level of play. 

Foster has been seen around the Redskins training facility at times since he was signed in 2018. At various points he was using a scooter and then walking on his own with a significant brace.

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Report: Jay Gruden interviewing for Jaguars offensive coordinator job

Report: Jay Gruden interviewing for Jaguars offensive coordinator job

Jay Gruden’s absence from football might only last a few months. 

The former Redskins head coach is reportedly interviewing for the Jacksonville Jaguars vacant offensive coordinator position, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. Jacksonville parted ways with John DeFlippo last Monday after just one season with the team. 
 

The few times Gruden has spoken since being fired by Washington in October, the former head coach has expressed a strong desire to get back into coaching. Gruden recently told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport he’s been “itching to do something” and “would like an office to go to,” according to Garafolo. 

Interviewing for an offensive coordinator position is not unfamiliar territory for Gruden. He spent the past six years as the head coach in the nation’s capital, but perhaps his most success in the NFL was when the 52-year-old was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Behind the solid play of Andy Dalton and A.J. Green, the Gruden-led offense in Cincinnati resulted in three straight playoff appearances. 

Should be be hired in Jacksonville, Gruden would have some promising pieces to work with. Rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew showed plenty of hope in the 12 games he started, and second-year wideout D.J. Chark enjoyed a breakout season in 2019. Additionally, running back Leonard Fournette finished with a career-high 1,152 rushing yards last season. 

Former Giants head coach Ben McAdoo and former Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have reportedly interviewed for the gig as well. 

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