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.
Who will get the third running back spot?
An NFL roster is a zero sum game; a spot claimed by one player means that another player loses one. There is no doubt that third-round pick Matt Jones will make the Redskins’ 53-man roster. It is likely that the Redskins keep three running backs (in addition to fullback Darrel Young), so either Chris Thompson or Silas Redd will be on the outside looking in after the final cuts are made on September 5. Which one survives?
Tandler: This is a replay of a competition from last year, one that was won by Redd. When final cuts came before Week 1, Redd was on the 53 and Thompson was cut and eventually landed on the practice squad.
Redd, an undrafted rookie, didn’t do anything spectacular to win the job. But all through the offseason program and training camp he impressed the coaches and his teammates with his approach to the game both on and off the field. He led the team in rushing during the preseason and made the case that he belongs.
Thompson, a fifth-round pick in 2013, occasionally flashed his impressive speed and moves during camp. But his effort to make the roster was hampered by injuries, an issue that has plagued him almost his entire football career. Last year he didn’t suffer from anything major but some nagging injuries sidelined him during camp and the preseason. That tipped the scales in favor of Redd.
This year Thompson made it through the offseason program without issue and if he can maintain his health—a big “if”—he and Redd will be on equal footing in their competition. I think that Thompson’s speed gives him the edge and that he makes it in a decision that the organization ponders right up until the deadline on September 5.
El-Bashir: Based on OTAs and minicamp, it looks as though Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones will see the majority of the workload at running back, with Jones replacing the departed Roy Helu Jr. as both Morris’ backup and the third down running back.
If that’s indeed how things play out, it would be hard to envision anyone behind Morris and Jones getting much work as long as the first two options stay healthy. But someone will get the job, so let's talk about it.
After edging Thompson in training camp a year ago, Redd received only 16 carries (half of which came against the Jaguars) and was targeted just 10 times in the pass game. Redd did, however, make an impact on special teams with four solo tackles and one assist. But I still always found it curious that he was used so sparingly on offense. In all, Redd saw only 55 snaps spread over eight games.
Thompson, meantime, received 31 snaps in two games late in the season after spending the much of the year on the practice squad. In March, Gruden indicated that Thompson would get the first crack at the third down job. That, of course, was before GM Scot McCloughan spent a third round pick on Jones.
So with all that as a backdrop, here’s how I see it playing out: Gruden has always spoken very highly about Thompson’s potential, his speed, his elusiveness, his versatility. Gruden is intrigued, and that matters. If Thompson stays healthy in camp and makes an impact in the preseason, I suspect he’ll get the nod.
Previously on Redskins offseason Q&A: