There is no Redskin who is under more pressure to improve this offseason than running back Matt Jones. As a rookie last year his average of 3.4 yards per carry was the worst among all players with enough rushing attempts to qualify. That won’t get it done with Alfred Morris gone and with Jones now expected to carry the load.
So far in non-contact OTA practices the coaches are happy with what Jones has done.
“You’re seeing a much more matured player,” offensive coordinator Sean McVay said of the 23-year-old Jones. “I’ve been extremely encouraged with him—his understanding of where he fits in protections, consistency in his tracks.”
Head coach Jay Gruden also has been impressed.
“We’re obviously happy with his progress,” said Gruden. “We feel good about where he is as a football player, his knowledge of the game. He’s comfortable in the system, very smart for a young player and very confident, so that’s a good thing.”
Gruden and McVay don’t have much choice but to be optimistic. As of right now Jones is all they have to work with. There isn’t another running back on the roster who can carry the load. Chris Thompson is a third-down back who needs to have his touches limited. Keith Marshall was a seventh-round pick and his injury history indicates that the team can’t rely on him too heavily. He was a spectator for the Redskins’ OTA on Wednesday.
There is plenty of speculation that the Redskins will add a veteran running back before training camp starts. But with their choices are limited to players like Pierre Thomas and Arian Foster, backs who will be on the wrong side of 30 when the season starts, Jones will remain at the top of the depth chart and will get the lion’s share of the touches.
The Redskins have cast their lot Jones. The rushing game will rise or fall based on how well he progresses when the pads go on and the games start.