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Redskins position outlook: Running back

Redskins position outlook: Running back

Over the next few weeks, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler will grade each position group’s performance in 2016, break down the current personnel situation and evaluate the unit's outlook for 2017. We’re starting things off with a look at the running backs.

Running back

2016 starters: Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson (3rd down)

Backups: Matt Jones, Mack Brown, Keith Marshall (IR)

Free agents: Thompson, restricted

Rewind: Kelley took over as the starter for Jones after seven games. He started off well, averaging 107 yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry over his first three games as the starter. His production slowed considerably in the last six games, with an average of 47 yards per game and 3.3 yards per carry. Still, it was a very good, totally unexpected season for an undrafted rookie

On the other hand, Jones had a very disappointing season compared to the expectations that he carried into 2016. After Alfred Morris left via free agency Jones was anointed The Man. There was no serious competition for the starting running back job throughout the offseason and training camp. Things started off pretty well as he was starting to figure out where to run. Through the first six games, Jones averaged 4.9 yards per carry and he was on pace to gain over 1,100 yards on the season.

Related: #RedskinsTalk podcast: A new deal for Cousins?

But then came the game in Detroit. Late in the first quarter the Redskins had a first and goal at the seven. Jones took a handoff up the middle and after gaining five yards he was fighting for a couple more. The ball came out and the Lions recovered in the end zone. Jones carried five more times the rest of the game and he was inactive the remaining nine games of the season. We’ll examine that a bit more in the “fast forward” section.

For the first time in his career, Thompson remained healthy and played all 16 games. The third-year player posted over 700 yards from scrimmage split almost equally between rushing (356) and receiving (349). He did well pass blocking and he scored a clutch touchdown late in the game against the Eagles, a 20-yard run around left end to put the Redskins ahead in the last two minutes.

Brown was promoted from the practice squad after Jones was deactivated. His season highlight was a 61-yard touchdown run in Week 16 to run up the score against the Bears. There was some fan buzz about Marshall because of his speed but the health problems that plagued him at Georgia continued in the NFL.

Fast forward: In an age of running back by committee the Redskins took a different approach. Jones had nearly all the carries in the seven games he started and Kelley had the lion’s share of the work in the last nine games. Thompson got some work here and there but he had more than four rushing attempts in a game just four times.

It was just such change from Jones being the unquestioned starter for the offseason and for the first seven weeks of the regular season to Kelley being the unquestioned starter with Jones on the sideline in street clothes that it raises questions for 2017.

Is Kelley good enough to be the running back for the team that the Redskins aspire to be, one good enough to advance deep into the playoffs? His early performance would indicate that he is but he didn’t exactly have a strong finish.

More Redskins: Free agency to-do list

What do they do with Jones? He was a third-round pick just two years ago. You would think that would give him some security at least through 2017. But it appeared that there was something beyond just a key lost fumble that had him on the inactive list for the final nine games. Did he fail to respond to coaching? Was there another attitude-related issue that instantly pushed him from being the unquestioned starter to being a forgotten man?

Eventually we will find out but not until free agency in the draft. If the Redskins go after even a mid-level free agent halfback or a mid-round running back in the draft that player isn’t going to replace Kelley or take Thompson’s third-down role. It would mean that Jones could start thinking about life after the Redskins.

Thompson is almost certain to return. He could come back on the restricted free agent tender or maybe the Redskins will sign him to a relatively modest two-year deal

The wild card is Marshall. It took Thompson a few years to learn how to keep his body ready to play. Marshall may not have that long but if he stays on the field his speed will get him a look.

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

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Report: Trent Williams' dogs killed neighbor's dog

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Report: Trent Williams' dogs killed neighbor's dog

Trent Williams is defending his dogs after neighbors of a home registered to him in Missouri City, Texas say the Redskins' lineman's dogs brutally killed their dog.

The neighbor's dog, Sandy, according to reports, died after being mauled and dragged under an iron fence on their own property. 

According to Williams, the attack began after Sandy instigated conflict with one of Williams' smaller pets. Williams felt his dogs did nothing wrong and said the animals were defending the smaller dog, who is fighting for its life after $5,000 in medical bills. 

Williams told FOX 26 Houston that the situation was "dogs doing what dogs do."

In comments to local television stations, Sandy's owner's described how they found their dog.

"I found my dog halfway ripped apart, head and one leg on the other side of the fence, two of those stakes ripped through the body and one leg just dangling," said Jerry Flowers.

"They drug her head through the fence," Linda Flowers said. "Half of her body was through the wrought iron fence."

Animal control and local police are no longer investigating the incident according to ABC 13. Williams was not cited for the incident.

Williams is on the non-football injury list for the Washington Redskins after ending his holdout halfway through the season. 

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Once the Redskins Ironman, Ryan Kerrigan moved to injured reserve

Once the Redskins Ironman, Ryan Kerrigan moved to injured reserve

The Redskins moved outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan to the injured reserve after he injured his calf last week against Green Bay. He will miss the remainder of the season. 

Kerrigan had started every game for Washington since 2011 until just three weeks ago, one of the most impressive streaks in the NFL at 139 straight starts. 

He missed the Panthers game due to a concussion, was able to come back from the Packers game and then hurt his calf. 

After three straight seasons with double-digit sacks, Kerrigan’s numbers were down this year. He will finish the season with just 5.5 sacks after posting 37 over the last few years. 

Dexter Manley holds the Redskins franchise record with 91 sacks. After bringing down Aaron Rodgers last week in Green Bay before his injury, Kerrigan got to 90 sacks. 

If he comes back healthy in 2020, Kerrigan would look prime to break the franchise record. He will be in the last year of his contract, however, and will account for nearly $12 million against the salary cap.

Should Washington release Kerrigan, which was once unthinkable, it would carry no salary cap hit. 

To replace Kerrigan on the active roster the Redskins signed Caleb Wilson from the Cardinals practice squad.

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