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Will the 2017 Redskins go with running back by committee?

Will the 2017 Redskins go with running back by committee?

With the addition of Samaje Perine in the draft, will the Redskins handle 2017 with a running back by committee approach with the rookie sharing carries with Rob Kelley? Let’s look at Jay Gruden’s history to see if we can get an indication.

In 2014, Jay Gruden’s first season as the Redskins’ head coach, he operated what was essentially a one-man show at running back. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks, Roy Helu, Chris Thompson and Silas Redd, combined for 59 carries. That comes to a split of 82 percent of the tailback carries for Morris, 18 percent for all the others.

In 2015, a committee emerged. Morris still led the team in carries but his attempts dropped to 202. Rookie Matt Jones had 144 rushing attempts, Chris Thompson had 35, and late-season addition Pierre Thomas had 11. That is a split of 52 percent for Morris, 37 percent for Jones, and 12 percent for the other two combined.  

RELATED: Pre-draft look at the Redskins depth chart: Running Back

Last year the numbers make it look like a committee but it really wasn’t. Robert Kelley led the tailbacks in carries with 168 while Jones had 99. With Chris Thompson logging 68 rushing attempts and Mack Brown getting nine, it looks like Kelley (49 percent of the tailback attempts) and Jones (29 percent) were a committee. But Kelley had only 17 carries in the first seven games while Jones had all 99 of his in that time span. From Week 8 on, Kelley carried 151 time while Jones was inactive ever week.

Looking back at Gruden’s coaching tenure in Cincinnati, 2014 in Washington resembles 2012 in Cincy in terms of the rushing attack splits. BenJarvus Green-Ellis took 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But the next season the Bengals drafted Giovani Bernard. In 2013, Green-Ellis had 56 percent of the tailback rushing attempts and Bernard had the other 44 percent. That more closely resembles the 2015 Redskins.

To close to loop here, in 2011, Gruden’s first year with the Bengals, Cedric Benson had 70 percent of the tailback carries.

So here is the percentage of tailback carries the leading rusher had in each of the five seasons that Gruden has overseen an NFL offense:

2011—70%
2012—80%
2013—56%
2014—82%
2015—52%
2016—49%

If you’re looking for a consistent philosophy here you’re not going to find it. Gruden has adjusted to the talent he had. When he had a strong lead back and limited second and third options, the lead back got most of the work. When viable alternatives were present a committee emerged.

So, what will it look like this year with the addition of Perine, a powerful, 235-pound fourth-round pick out of Oklahoma? He is used to splitting time, getting about the same number of carries as Joe Mixon with the Sooners last year.

READ MORE: Jay Gruden is a huge fan of his rookie RB Perine

But Perine can handle a heavy workload when he needs to. In 36 games with the Sooners he had 20 or more rushing attempts 16 times including five with more than 30 carries.

As a rookie last year, Kelley had 21, 22, and 24 carries in his first three games as the starter. He didn’t have a 20-attempt game the rest of the season. The decreased workload did not necessarily come about because he couldn’t handle it. Game situations dictated fewer rushing attempts as the Redskins slumped to a 2-4 finish down the stretch. Still, Kelley did leave the Week 16 Bears game with a knee injury and although he played against the Giants the next week, he averaged just 2.75 yards on 13 carries. While it would be unfair to question Kelley’s durability at this point, we will see how he handles the punishment as a primary back over 16 games.  

The one thing that seems certain is that Jones won’t be taking carries away from anyone. Even before the team drafted Perine there were reports that they were looking to trade him. If they can’t make a deal it looks like his slide from committee member to unquestioned starter to the end of the bench will conclude with him getting released.

Thompson’s 68 carries last year were a career high. He had 38 rushing attempts while Jones was the primary back and 30 when Kelley was the work horse. The 2013 fifth-round pick will continue his role as a change of pace back who, barring an injury to another back, will continue to average four or five rushing attempts per game.

Perhaps Brown can earn a regular role but for the time being he seems destined to playing special teams when he is active on game days.

Since Perine hasn’t even put on a helmet yet it is difficult to project what his workload will be. However, if he is the player the organization believes it drafted he likely will get more than the 99 carries that Jones got this year.

If he does get, say 8-10 carries per game in short yardage and in relief of Kelley that should make it more of a true committee. While Gruden may go with the hot hand and one back may get significantly more action in a given game than the other, it wouldn’t be surprising to see each back getting 40 to 45 percent of the tailback carries with Thompson getting most of the rest. 

MORE REDSKINS: Roster shuffle will continue through rookie camp, OTAs

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Kyle Shanahan says he won't make Redskins game personal, but it sure sounds like he will

Kyle Shanahan says he won't make Redskins game personal, but it sure sounds like he will

Kyle Shanahan had to know the question was coming, and for the most part, his answer was perfectly polite and diplomatic. Until a nice, little elbow at the end, that is.

The 49ers coach was asked on a Wednesday conference call how he'll avoid making this Sunday's game against the Redskins personal. Shanahan was with Washington from 2010-2013 along with his dad, Mike, but the end of his tenure in D.C. was very messy.

In his response, he explained how he'll try to treat the Burgundy and Gold like any other opponent, but then he dropped one comment that indicated he is in fact looking for some major revenge.

"It's not my first time back there," he said. "I've been in three buildings since. I've moved on with my life in many other ways and I think my family has also. I think it's pretty easy not to make it personal. The guys it'd be personal with don't play in the game."

That last portion was no doubt directed at the Redskins' front office, with whom Kyle and Mike had plenty of issues with. It wasn't the only part of the call where Shanahan slighted the Redskins, either. 

At one point, the 39-year-old was pushed to describe how he's gone about rebuilding San Francisco's culture since he took over. He stressed having a united vision with the decision-makers above him and sounded quite pleased to be in a place where he feels like that's happening.

"To me, culture's based off the type of people you have there," he explained. "I knew, during the interview, meeting the owner, then being able to get a general manager like John Lynch, we knew we had the people, the right people with the right intentions that were in it for one thing, and that was to win. And we also could be very honest with where we were at at the time."

"We've got people who live and die football and they know how to treat each other," he added. "It's one of the more fun groups and higher-character groups that I've been around."

So, that wasn't as direct as his first jab, but it still got the job done. Don't worry, though. He found time for one more obvious remark about his old employer before facing them in Week 7.

Near the end of the discussion, Shanahan was given a hypothetical where a young, up-and-coming coach approaches him about possibly working with the Redskins. What would Shanahan tell that person? After a quick chuckle, he played along the best he could.

"Just look into it. See what the situation is, who you want to work for," he said. "Anytime you get opportunities, you've got to look into it. But I'm not there, I don't know how it is right now, so that would be up to that person."

Then came the kicker.

"I'm probably not the person they want to call on that advice."

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Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

Dwayne Haskins took the first-team reps in practice on Wednesday and Bill Callahan was impressed

While the Redskins 2019 campaign has not gone as expected, news from Wednesday's practice should give the fanbase a glimmer of hope for the future at the quarterback position.

Starting QB Case Keenum was held out of Wednesday's practice to rest his body. With Keenum absent, rookie Dwayne Haskins took all of the first-team reps. Callahan was impressed with the Ohio State product and pleased with his development.

"Dwayne took all the reps today and it’s invaluable for a backup to take starting reps," Callahan said. "Especially at the beginning of the week in terms of putting your plan together and laying it out there and making all the adjustments, whether it’s new communication, new formations, handling the shift-motion game.

"I thought he did a really good job today, so his growth is starting to show in practice and also in his preparation," Callahan continued. "He’s in earlier, he’s out later, so it’s all coming to fruition. It’s going to take a little time, but it’s good to see him take a major step today in practice."

Keenum wasn't the only veteran to be held out as practice, as running back Adrian Peterson missed Wednesday's practice, too. Interim head coach Bill Callahan held out both players simply to rest their bodies. It's not atypical for veterans to miss Wednesday practices, especially as it gets to the deeper portion of the season.

"Definitely just veteran guys, backing them down and just trying to take care of their bodies a little bit better," Callahan said of why he held them out.

When Callahan took over as interim head coach last week, many expected the team to turn to Haskins as their starting QB. At the time, Washington was 0-5, and both Keenum and Colt McCoy had been largely ineffective under center.

Although Callahan did not immediately turn to the signal-caller, he's at least given a plan of action to develop the rookie, something that was unclear while Jay Gruden was the head coach.

"He will be [the starter] at some point in time,” Callahan said on Haskins during his introductory press conference last Monday. “We’re going to continue to develop him and heighten his maturation process, try to get him on schedule so he is prepared."

Gruden had Haskins running the scout team. Even when Keenum does practice, Callahan has given the rookie at least a few reps with the starters.

"We've got to be conscientious in getting him some repetitions during the course of the practice," Callahan said last week. "So that will a little be a shift in philosophy moving forward."

When Callahan ultimately pulls the trigger to move to the rookie remains uncertain. But with Haskins improving by the day, and Keenum continuing to turn in subpar results on Sunday's, that move could come sooner rather than later.

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