ASHBURN, Va. – Come one, come all to the Washington Redskins running back corral!
Matt Jones, the former University of Florida running back, has taken a hard fall from grace since entering last season as the starter for the Redskins. Now, he finds himself as a fifth-stringer in a crowded backfield.
Robert Kelley had a breakout season while filling in for Jones, who lost his starting position atop the depth chart due to fumbling issues and has yet to report to any offseason workouts.
“He’s on our roster. He’s eating up a spot,” Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden said about Jones' absence. “We all know that this is voluntary, so there’s nothing that we can do.”
After re-signing Chris Thompson, acquiring former Oklahoma running back Samjae Perrine and seeing Keith Marshall healthy so far, it appears there is no absolute workhorse yet who will carry the load consistently as the No. 1 back. Nevertheless, Gruden feels comfortable rolling with Kelley moving forward, but every rusher on the squad has an opportunity to compete for time.
“I joked around and said, ‘last year at this time you were the ninth-string running back for God’s sakes,’ and now he’s the guy,” Gruden said about Kelley. “So it’s exciting to see how far he’s come in a short period of time. With that experience comes confidence and I think he’s more confident with every rep that he takes, with every path, with every course that he takes at running back, with his protections, with his routes.
However, another former Gator had an impressive showing on May 31 and is now in the mix. Mack Brown looks like he is ready to make a name for himself and find some playing time after he rushed for 149 yards and an impressive 60-yard touchdown in Washington's preseason finale against the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay just a year ago.
“I left everything out on the field,” Brown said after the game. “I had a lot of confidence coming into the game, and I said, 'you know what? Guys got hurt, and I have to put my best foot forward to make this team.' I feel like I put some good film out there from camp during the preseason, so I'll keep praying and hopefully I'm here.”
Brown maintained a roster spot on the team, but despite having a dominant performance that game, only had eight touches in the regular season. Still, he made the most out of them as he rushed for 82 yards (10.3 yards-per-carry) during a span of nine games and scored a touchdown.
This time around he hopes he will be able to show the coaching staff what he can do in his second year as a pro. He has the potential to be a darkhorse candidate for a larger role if he keeps running hard and making people miss in the practices leading up to training camp.
Every running back on the roster has something special about their game. Thompson and Marshall bring big-play ability with top end speed and elusiveness, while Perrine and Brown show great quickness hitting the hole with strength and ferocity.
The Redskins currently have six running backs, but undisclosed sources have said that Jones wishes to be released or traded. Washington hasn't shown any interest in pursuing either of those options as of late, but there is a possibly there will only be five tailbacks going into training camp.
Position battles will continue, but Washington shouldn't have an issue keeping the running back stable full heading into training camp.