LANHAM – The Washington Redskins’ running back stable has lots of competition for limited spots, but no one wanted to see a player fall out of the rotation due to an injury.
Keith Marshall went down with a torn right patella tendon on July 30 and will miss the entire 2017 season. He hurt himself during an 11-on-11 drill at training camp.
“He will have surgery tomorrow, I believe,” Head Coach Jay Gruden said shortly after seeing Marshall carted off of the field. “He tore his patellar tendon. We signed Kenny Hilliard today, the running back from LSU.”
Despite Washington dealing with the news of losing Marshall for a second straight season due to an injury, the Redskins’ running back depth is apparent.
Gruden said he is impressed with the performance of Matt Jones despite the former University of Florida product asking for a trade earlier this offseason.
“(Jones) had some tough runs between the tackles,” Gruden said. “Even though we’re not tackling live, you can see that he’s hitting the hole, he’s getting good body lean, and he’s working hard to compete, and that’s what we’re looking for.”
With the emergence of Robert Kelley late last season and the team re-signing Chris Thompson, Washington has to feel good about its ground game moving forward, barring any more injuries during training camp.
Meanwhile, new wideout Terrelle Pryor, Sr. continues to amaze the coaching staff and fans alike. Since joining the team via free agency this offseason, he has slowly become a fan favorite and has developed a strong rapport with quarterback Kirk Cousins in short period of time.
Gruden loves the fact that Pryor understands defensive concepts since he used to be a quarterback earlier in his career with the Oakland Raiders. It was not until he was with the Cleveland Browns that he converted to wide receiver full-time.
“(Pryor) picked up the system effortlessly,” Gruden said. “He asks good questions, has great logic when he is asking questions, wants to add more stuff for himself, as most quarterbacks would do.
“He’s been outstanding, really. I just like the fact that he’s a very bright guy, understands coverages, knows where the ball should go and route concepts, which is very big. He is a brilliant receiver. Now it’s just about polishing up the little things and the details of each route, and we’re working with him on that.”
Even though Gruden is enamored with Pryor's effortless transition to becoming a premium NFL receiver, it wasn't an overnight success for the wideout who hauled in 77 receptions for more than 1,000 yards and four touchdowns a year ago.
“It wasn’t easy,” Pryor said. “You guys see me as this big, 6-5, fast guy runner out there, running past people, who're so big and stuff like that. I got picked up by the Browns and I only had a month to train before I even had the opportunity to go into camp and be ready as a wideout, never playing it in my life.
“Now I’m at the point where I can control my body, I know where I’m going, I know what I want to do to the defender, I know how to stare the guy in his eyes and make him think that I’m doing something else and then try to do something different. That’s what I continue to get better at.”
As long as Cousins has a strong running game at his disposal to balance a potent passing attack with the likes of Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed, the Redskins could be in the driver's seat in the NFC East.