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Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?

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Redskins offseason Q&A: How will the carries get divvied up?

With a new general manager in charge, new faces throughout the lineup as well as new assistant coaches bringing new ideas to the table, the Redskins are a team in transition. Between now and the start of training camp, CSNWashington.com reporters Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine the top questions facing Jay Gruden and Co. as they prepare for the season.

How will the workload at running back be shared?

Although Washington DC is famous for trying to solve problems by assembling a committee, the Redskins have not use that approach at their running back position. For the past three seasons Alfred Morris has been the Redskins’ workhorse running back. Since he came into the league in 2012 Morris has owned 86 percent of the team’s tailback carries. But both Morris’ total yards and yards per carry have declined in each of the last two seasons. And Scot McCloughan drafted running back Matt Jones out of Florida in the third round. Will the workload shift with Jones playing a bigger role than predecessors at tailback did?

Tandler: Ever since Jones was drafted with a top 100 pick (95th overall), Jay Gruden has gone out of his way to made sure that everyone knows that Morris is still his No. 1 running back and that Jones would have to earn playing time. That is the right thing for the head coach to say. But don’t listen to what he says, watch what he does.

And what Gruden did was give Jones a lot of work with the first team during OTAs and minicamp, subbing him in for Morris early and often. That doesn’t mean that we’ll see Jones getting a lot of first-quarter carries once the games start to count; it’s always dangerous to make any assumptions based on personnel rotations when they’re wearing shorts in June. But Gruden and company clearly are intrigued by what Jones, who at 6-3, 231 resembles a linebacker carrying the football, can bring to the offense.

I think that Jones will spell Morris more frequently than Roy Helu (40 carries) did last year. But it’s entirely possible that Jones could get a substantial workload without cutting into Morris’ carries. Last year the Redskins ran the ball 401 times; 20 teams had more rushing attempts. If we are to believe all of the talk around Redskins Park (and, again, be wary of what they say) the team will run the ball more often this year. It’s possible that Morris will maintain a workload right around the 265 carries he had last year and that the additional carries will go to Jones. Put Morris down for 275 carries for 1,275 yards and Jones for 110 for 495.

El-Bashir: There are a handful of Redskins starters who will be looking over their shoulder when the team gets to Richmond. And I suspect Morris will be one of them.

As Tandler mentioned, it was indeed interesting that Jones seemed to get more reps with the first team than other backups, particularly in minicamp last month. Gruden cautioned reporters not to read too much into personnel rotations. So I’m trying not to. I really am. But I just can’t help myself. Coaches get limited on-the-field time with their players in the offseason, therefore everything is done for a reason. And Jones getting those reps was, in my opinion, done for a reason.

Morris has been a very productive running back the past three seasons. And, according to Gruden, he has enjoyed “as good [an offseason] as anybody in this building.” And that may be true. But his production has declined. He’s a rugged runner who’s carried the ball almost 900 times the past three years. He’s also entering the last year of his contract and there’s a new coach—ground game guru Bill Callahan—bringing new ideas to the Redskins’ running attack.

We’ll get a much better feel for the workload split in a few weeks. But as I’ve said before, I think Jones is going to play a much bigger role this season than many are anticipating. How big a role? My prediction: Morris gets 225-240 carries (down from 265 last season) and Jones gets 75 carries, while Robert Griffin III and Chris Thompson chip in often, as well.

Previously on Redskins preseason Q&A:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

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

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Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

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USA TODAY Sports

Early returns show solid Redskins squad, with potential for more

More than 100 days remain before the Redskins take the field in meaningful NFL action.

Any and all excitement needs to be tempered, significantly, because what happens on a practice field in May without pads does not represent what will happen in September, October and beyond. 

Still, the Redskins group that took the field this week for OTAs showed promise. 

New quarterback Alex Smith looked crisp, connecting with a variety of wideouts and commanding the huddle. New wideout Paul Richardson made the best play of the session when he streaked down the field past rookie cornerback Greg Stroman and hauled in a deep pass from Smith. The play showed Smith's ability to identify open receivers downfield, as well as Richardson's ability to go up and grab a contested catch. Even Stroman, the seventh-round rookie, positioned himself well, he just fell victim to a perfect pass and tremendous athleticism.

That was only one play in a two-hour session. Again, don't take too much from May, when players don't wear pads or engage in any of the violence that the NFL is predicated upon. But the OTAs do serve a purpose, both for players and coaches, and there were nuggets to absorb and try to project for the fall. Here they are:

  • Jay Gruden made clear he's not concerned about the health of his offensive line. Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are recuperating from offseason surgery, but Gruden believes both are on track for when things start to matter. It's a good thing the coach isn't concerned because this was the 'Skins line in OTAs (left to right): Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, John Kling. Should that lineup take the field this fall, there will be trouble. 
     
  • The Redskins lost Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland this offseason, and the secondary depth will be something to watch throughout training camp. At OTAs, newly signed veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick lined up opposite Josh Norman in the team's base 3-4 defense. In nickel and dime coverage, Quinton Dunbar lined up opposite Norman and Scandrick moved to the slot. As things progress, it will be interesting to see if Dunbar surpasses Scandrick in base coverage, and what becomes of 2017 third-round pick Fabian Moreau. Stay tuned.  
     
  • Rookie running back Derrius Guice looked every part of the first-round talent many judged him to be before draft season rumors caused him to slide to the late second round. Guice cuts with authority and is able to see holes before they form and patiently wait to hit the open space. Guice also looked fine in pass-catching drills, one area that was a question coming out of LSU (but that says more about LSU's prehistoric offense). Watching the Redskins offense work, it seems clear Guice will be the heaviest used runner this fall.
     
  • That said, don't count out Robert Kelley. He looks leaner and plenty quick, showing a few impressive runs during the session. Byron Marshall also looked good, and Gruden pointed out his success in his post-OTA press conference. The running back group will have plenty of competition all the way through Richmond. 
     
  • Jonathan Allen has switched jersey numbers from 95 to 93. Rookie Daron Payne is now wearing 95. Payne and Allen both went to Alabama, both are huge, and both play defensive line. The number switch will take some getting used to. 
     
  • Zach Brown missed the OTA session as he was moving, and interestingly in his spot with the starting defense was Josh Harvey-Clemons. The second-year pro out of Louisville showed impressive speed in coverage, and remember he played safety in college and performed quite well. He has ball skills and great size to be a coverage linebacker. Some were surprised when the Redskins kept JHC last season at the cut to 53, but his development appears to be paying off for the organization. 
     
  • Another linebacker that made a play was Zach Vigil. He impressed for the Redskins late last season and was running the Washington second-team defensive huddle. At one point, Vigil broke through the line of scrimmage and blew up a run play. That prompted D.J. Swearinger to yell from the sideline, "OK Zach. OK ZACH!"
     
  • Speaking of Swearinger, the Redskins defensive captain seemed in midseason form when it comes to yelling encouragement on the field. Nobody hypes up the defense like Swearinger, particularly when the secondary makes a big play. On one pass Dunbar made a nice diving play to break up a pass, and Swearinger and Josh Norman got very fired up, shouting and jumping around. The entire defense responded. Little stuff like that helps disrupt the monotony of offseason work. 
     
  • Jamison Crowder looks jacked and quick. The end. 

 

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