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Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown: Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 17 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

I am not a scout but I will pass along my observations from watching some game tape of each of the players profiled here.

Christian McCaffrey

Running back
Stanford

Height: 5-11
Weight: 202
40-yard dash: 4.48

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Smooth, controlled stride length with choppy feet for instant cuts and change of direction. Plus vision with above average anticipatory feel for opening creases. Hugs contours of the running lane and staggers and stutters his feet to maneuver in tight quarters. Protects football while running through traffic. Reads keys quickly on stretch plays.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins have given their defense a boost in free agency with some free agent acquisitions and the move of Su’a Cravens to safety. The offense, however, was hit by the free agency losses of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. They could make up for some of the lost production with the addition of a back like McCaffrey.

Rob Kelley can get you 1,000 yards on the ground but that may be his ceiling. He can be effective but not one of the centerpieces of an NFL offense. With his speed and elusiveness, McCaffrey can. And if Kirk Cousins is going to be gone in a year—and despite what many fans want to believe that seems to be more of a probability than a possibility—the Redskins will need to have someone to feature offensively.

His versatility is key. He’s not going to be able to carry 25 times a game consistently but nobody does these days. Ezekiel Elliott led the NFL in carries with 20 per game. An average of 16 carries per game gets a player in the top 10 in rushing attempts. So while there may be concern that McCaffrey can’t be a workhorse back, there is really is no such animal in the modern NFL.

Film review (2016 unless indicated): vs. USC, vs. Arizona

McCaffrey fumbled just three times in his three college seasons and one of them came early in this game against USC. It was a careless type of fumble as he didn’t have the ball secured as he was going to the ground. Later in the first half he made a nice stutter step to get wide open but the quarterback overthrew him.

McCaffrey was effective lined up next to the quarterback in the shotgun and in the I-formation and as a single back with the QB behind center. A few times he took a direct shotgun snap and gained yardage. He can find running room between the tackles as well as outside. In one goal to go series against Southern Cal he ran three straight times out of a four-point stance and pounded in for the touchdown on fourth and one. McCaffrey can play like a small back when the situation calls for it but he can be just as effective as a bigger back when needed.

McCaffrey is a matchup nightmare against a linebacker trying to cover him coming out of the backfield. He just needs a step and he turn a short catch into an explosive play.

His outside runs are nice but his runs between the tackles, as he reads his blocks and pick his way through traffic, are the most fun to watch. He is able to break tackles not because he powers through them but because the defenders rarely get a clean shot at him.

McCaffrey isn’t asked to pass protect much and he has a tendency to dive at the pass rushers legs. He’ll need some coaching up in the NFL.

Potential issues: There must be some concern about his size even though he was pretty durable in college, missing only a few games besides the bowl game he famously decided to sit out. It’s one thing lasting at 5-11, 202 in college; he will be pounded more in the NFL.

And he has already taken some pounding. In the last two years he has 590 rushing attempts and 82 receptions. That’s a lot of punishment and it would be a concern even with a larger back.

Then there is the question of if running back would be the best use of the Redskins’ No. 17 pick. While they have upgraded the defense, they could always use more help there. And even though Jay Gruden has said that he loves Rob Kelley if they do want to upgrade there will be plenty of quality backs available later in the draft.

Bottom line: Bruce Allen has said that the Redskins will take the player on the board who has the best grade. It’s quite possible that there won’t be a defensive lineman, inside linebacker, or even a guard on the board with a better grade than McCaffrey. For that matter, it’s not a given that McCaffrey will be there.

But if he is, he might be too good to pass up. The defense might have plenty of time to rest up if McCaffrey is added to what could be a potent passing attack.

In his own words:

When asked about his position flexibility:

Something I really pride myself on is not just being a running back that can catch the ball but if I move out to the slot, I become a receiver. If I move out to X or Z, I become a receiver and not just a running back. I really try to pride myself on route running, catching and being able to be a mismatch anywhere on the field.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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

 

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Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Need to Know: A good sign for the Redskins’ running game?

Here is what you need to know on Sunday, August 19, five days before the Washington Redskins host the Broncos in their third preseason game. 

Talking points

A year ago, there was tremendous concern about the Redskins’ rushing game. In their first two preseason games in 2017 when the games were the Redskins’ first-team offense against the other team’s starters on defense, Washington gained 13 yards on 13 carries. In the first halves of those games, which were played mostly with players on both sides who would end up making the roster the total was 21 attempts for 20 yards. 

At the time, the company line was to downplay the problems. 

“I’m just not worried,” said Trent Williams.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

As we now know, the Redskins rushing game never really got going. Certainly, injuries to backs Rob Kelley and Chris Thompson and to the entire offensive line contributed heavily to their No. 27 ranking in rushing yards. But a look at the preseason could indicate that the building blocks for an effective rushing game just weren’t in place. 

Things are looking better this year. In two preseason games, the Redskins have rushed for 216 yards. In the first halves of the games, they have 31 attempts for 109 yards. That’s not a great average (3.5 yards per carry) but it is a vast improvement on the sub-one yard per carrying average they had through two games last year. 

Let’s not get carried away here. Preseason numbers aren’t rock-solid indicators by any stretch and even if they were we are looking at a small sample size. Still, the preseason stats are what we have to look at right now. We will see how things develop.  

Bureau of statistics

In 2017 the Redskins averaged 123 rushing yards per game in their first five games. In their last 11 games, they averaged 76 per game. 

On the record

Jay Gruden on the returns of RBs Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine from ankle injuries: "There are no reports really, we'll just wait and see. Every injury is different, and we'll play it by ear and see how long it takes . . . The injury report will come out Week 1 on - when is it, Wednesday? And there you have it."

Comment: Yes, this really was Gruden and not Bill Belichick. The whole organization has been tighter with injury information in general this year. We’re getting a lot of descriptions like “lower leg” rather than ankle or toe. If that’s the way they want to do business that’s fine but be advised as a fan that you are not going to get much information. 

The agenda

Today: Practice at Redskins Park 1:50; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 3:00

Upcoming: Preseason Broncos @ Redskins (Aug. 24) 5 days; Final cut (Sept. 1) 13 days; Season opener @ Cardinals (Sept. 9) 21 days

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

martez_carter_vs_jets.png
Associated Press

After releasing Martez Carter the Redskins are thin at running back

The Redskins are very thin at running back right now. 

Today at practice the Redskins had three running backs on the field. Rob Kelley and Kapri Bibbs are fully healthy while Chris Thompson is limited as he recovers from a broken leg he suffered last November. 

Injuries have hit the depth at running back. The most recent casualty was Martez Carter, who was waived with an injury designation. 

The move was surprising since Carter had some good runs against the Jets during their preseason game on Thursday and he did not appear to be injured during the game. 

Coach Jay Gruden did not offer any more details as to what the injury to Carter was, only that he is no longer with the team. 

Also sidelined with lower leg injuries are Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall. According to media reports, Perine will be out one week and Marshall for two to four. Gruden would not confirm the timelines, saying only that they are undergoing treatment and the timetable for their returns in unknown. 

The Redskins will bring in some running backs to try out on Sunday. They will need at least one and probably two in order to get through the upcoming preseason game against the Broncos on Friday. 

In other personnel moves, the Redskins waived linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive end Jalen Wilkerson and signed offensive tackle Kendall Calhoun, defensive back Darius Hillary, and wide receiver Allenzae Staggers. 

More Redskins news

-Redskins vs Jets: Must-see photos from the game
-AnalysisFive Redskins-Jets observations

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler