The busy portion of free agency is completed. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview. The 90-man offseason roster is full, as well. Now comes the difficult part for second-year head coach Jay Gruden: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin next Tuesday, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to examine the top items on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the Redskins for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today …
Running back to-do list
Tandler: The change from the zone-blocking scheme that Alfred Morris rode to over 3,600 yards rushing over the last three years to more of a power scheme represents a change that Morris needs to start to figure out. The coaches seem to be confident that he can make the adjustment but learning to hit the hole as opposed to looking for a crease, planning a foot, and cutting will take some time. The Redskins could be trying to make one of the biggest third-down backs in the league out of rookie Matt Jones. He will spend a lot of time catching passes and doing what he can to master pass protection, although the real work on blocking will have to wait until the pads go on in Richmond in July.
El-Bashir: Over the next few weeks, I’ll have my eyes on two running backs: Matt Jones and Chris Thompson. My gut tells me Jones is going to have a bigger role in 2015 than some are anticipating. Sure, Morris is the starter. But Jones is big, powerful and, most important, has good enough hands to be a threat out of the backfield. The question right now is how quickly can he grasp the playbook? I also wonder if head coach Jay Gruden is going to find a way to get Thompson on the field. Gruden has long been a big fan of Thompson’s skill set; the third year player just hasn’t stayed healthy long enough to earn a steady role. As I wrote earlier this week, Thompson is entering his third NFL offseason. He’s got the speed, elusiveness and versatility to make an impact. But if it’s going to happen in Washington, Thompson must put it all together in the coming few months.