Over the next few weeks, Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ depth chart now that the team’s offseason program has concluded.
Some battles are straightforward. Others could get complicated. This much, however, cannot be debated: A player is not on the 53-man roster until its finalized Sept. 5.
So who’s in? And who’s in jeopardy? Up today …
Position: Running back
On the roster: Alfred Morris, Darrel Young, Matt Jones, Silas Redd, Chris Thompson, Trey Williams, Michael Hill, Jordan Campbell
Likely to make the 53: Morris, Young, Jones
Comment: Only Marshawn Lynch has more rushing yards than Morris since he came into the league as a sixth-round draft pick in 2012. At a position where players tend to get banged up, he hasn’t missed a start, or even more than a series or two here and there.
Now three years into his career and going into a contract year, the “yeah, buts” are starting to come out. Yeah, but both his total yards gained and his average per carry have declined each year since his breakout rookie season. Yeah, but he’s not very effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Yeah, but he doesn’t have breakaway speed.
Jay Gruden has emphasized the positive with Morris, refusing to concede that the back will have any less of a role than he had last year. Yeah, but you don’t draft a running back in the third round if you intend to maintain the status quo.
That third-round back is Jones and he is an intriguing blend of size, smooth moves, and pass-catching ability. He looked good in OTAs and minicamp but it would be wise to hold off on even a preliminary evaluation of this physical back until the pads are on for a while.
The word is that Young is worried that the fullback position will be fully phased out of Gruden’s offense and he’ll be out of a job. But that line of thought is likely a self-motivation tactic. Gruden likes Young’s versatility and his ability to catch, block, and run. You can write him down on the 53-man roster with a Sharpie.
Battling for a job: Redd, Thompson, Williams, Hill, Campbell
Comment: The Redskins are likely to keep three running backs (in addition to the fullback Young) and Morris and Jones are locks. That leaves Thompson, a 2013 fifth-round draft pick, and Redd, who made the team as an undrafted rookie last year, fighting for that last spot.
The coaches are intrigued by Thompson, who has the speed to be a threat to take it to the house any time he touches the ball. They also are frustrated by his constant battles with injuries. If he can stay healthy he could have the inside track on that third running back job.
But even if Thompson is healthy it would be a mistake to write off Redd’s chances. He impressed coaches and teammates with his work ethic on the field and the way he approached preparation off the field as well. Redd made the 53-man roster but he played sparingly, getting just 16 carries for 75 yards.
If both backs are impressive in camp and in the preseason, a decision to keep four running backs is not out of the question. They would have to go short at another position, of course, but a great August by both players could mean they are both in uniform in September.
The 5-7, 195-pound Williams is an intriguing prospect. Many were surprised when he went undrafted out of Texas A&M. He caught some eyes during offseason workouts with his speed and moves; we will have to see how those translate in pads with contact before we can realistically assess his chances. The numbers seem to work against him making the 53 but the practice squad is a possibility.
Hill has spent some time on three different NFL rosters. His chances of making the 53 are slim and a player who will be 26 before the season starts is unlikely to be a candidate for the practice squad. Campbell is a long shot as well, barring injuries.
Redskins position previews 2015: