The Washington Redskins will enter training camp later on this summer with several possible roster battles already brewing. At the top of that roster battle list, will be the Redskins running back position where Washington finds themselves open to several possibilities, but without that one player that stands out and completely above the others.
When the 2016 NFL regular season ended the starting Redskins running back position belonged to rookie Robert Kelley, known simply as “Fat Rob” to his teammates and fans. Fat Rob recorded 704 yards rushing and six touchdowns in his rookie season after second-year running back Matt Jones’ fumbling issues returned mid-season. Kelley was able to impress the Redskins coaching staff enough to be named the early starter on the depth chart before spring minicamp began a few short weeks ago. Jones began 2016 as the Redskins starting running back after a solid rookie season in which he gained 490 yards and three touchdowns but fumbled the ball five times in the process. Jones now finds himself at the bottom of the depth chart and in desperate need of a major break if he is going to ever carry the ball again in the crowded backfield currently located in Washington.
With Chris Thompson’s role already etched out as the team’s third-down back, the real competition for the starting spot that Robert Kelley will feel in training camp will come from rookie Samaje Perine, the Redskins fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Oklahoma. Perine racked up 4,122 yards rushing while averaging six yards a carry and scoring 49 touchdowns, Perine added 40 receptions for 321 yards and three touchdowns receiving in three years with the Sooners. Perine set a NCAA record for most yards rushing in one game with 427 yards rushing against the Kansas Jayhawks in 2014 and brings a bruising style of play with him to the Redskins. If he remains healthy and picks up on Jay Gruden’s offensive scheme, Perine will give Fat Rob issues regarding holding onto the starting role. In today’s NFL, every down running backs are few and far between with most teams using a combination of players to fill the spot. The Redskins may find it easier to split carries between the two in an attempt to keep a fresh running back on the field at all times.
Only four running backs in the NFL saw a higher percentage of their rushing yards come after contact in 2016. pic.twitter.com/vygRTwTgNy— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 22, 2017
Outside of Kelley and Perine, the Redskins also have Mack Brown and Keith Marshall on the roster. Marshall was a seventh-round draft pick for the Redskins in 2016 after recording the fastest 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine a few months before. The scouting take on Marshall is that beyond speed, he’s no near where he needs to be regarding a starting running back in the league. Last year Marshall suffered what seemed to be a non-serious foot injury that was listed as day-to-day, the Redskins placed him on injured reserve a day after saying he wouldn’t miss any time. That’s common practice in the league when a team thinks a player isn’t ready, but they don’t want anyone else signing him off waivers either (essentially the Redskins legally ducked him away for a year in hopes he would improve).
Mack Brown represents an interesting conversation among Redskins fans and positional experts. Most fans believe that Brown just needs more carries and the rest will take care of itself, while positional experts have never viewed him as much of anything. One thing is for sure, it’s hard to argue with the numbers he was able to produce in his only action as Brown gained 80 yards on 10 carries over nine games (he started none), including an electrifying 61-yard run for a touchdown against the Chicago Bears in week 16.
The Washington Redskins offense should experience a major gain on the rushing side of the things in 2017. The team currently has one of the top offensive lines in the game and continuity should add even more to the situation as the years go on. Couple that with the fact that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has already stated his intention to run the ball more in 2017, and you have a recipe for a more balanced attack from Washington in the coming season.
The top gap-scheme blocking lines from a season ago pic.twitter.com/tIBs10OooB— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 1, 2017
[Featured Image by Evan Habeeb/Getty Images]