Quick Links

20 questions in 20 days: 5 Will running back by committee work?

20 questions in 20 days: 5 Will running back by committee work?

By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir20 questions in 20 daysAs we count down to the first game of the Redskins season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.Question 5:Will a running back by committee approach work?The background:Ever since Clinton Portis sustained a concussion midway through the 2009 season, the Redskins have not had a workhorse running back. It doesnt look like things are going to change this year. Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr., and Alfred Morris all have their strong points but none of them has demonstrated the ability to tote the rock 20 times a game, week in and week out. That means that all three of them will have to carry the load if the Redskins are going to be successful running the ball.Tandler:The workhorse back is becoming a thing of the past in what has become a passing league. Neither Super Bowl participant had a runner with as many as 200 carries. While it may be nice to have a prime back like Ray Rice (291 rushing attempt) or Frank Gore (292), its not necessary to win. Having a productive running game is still important but having one back get the lions share of the carries is not. What the Redskins need is a change of approach. Since Portis faded from the scene they have run with one back until he was injured or became ineffective and then switched to the next guy. What Mike and Kyle Shanahan need to do is come up with a plan to rotate the backs, play to their strengths, and keep them fresh and healthy. A planned running back by committee approach will work; riding one back until he drops and then saddling up the next one will not.El-Bashir:Although we dont know how the Shanahans plan to deploy their stable of running backs, it appears the coaching staff is leaning toward utilizing all three -- and for good reason. Royster is rugged and instinctive. Helu is elusive, a decent receiver and an effective pass protector. Morris makes one cut and hes gone. While none is of the featured back variety, the trio could form a potent combination, particularly if opposing defenses become preoccupied with the possibility of quarterback Robert Griffin III taking off with the ball as well. But there are concerns. Royster, Helu and Morris have a grand total of seven NFL starts between them. Another is health. Royster missed time in the preseason with knee and neck ailments, while Helu was sidelined with two sore Achilles tendons. Considering both were hobbled by injuries at various points last season, too, its a major concern.20 questions in 20 days20 Aug.20Will Jammal Brown play this year?
19 Aug.21Will Chris Cooley make the team?
18 Aug. 22Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
17 Aug. 23Is Garon a No. 1 receiver?
16 Aug. 24Can Trent Williams go from good to great?
15 Aug. 25Can DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
14 Aug. 26Can Santana Moss regain his old form?
13 Aug. 27Can Orakpo post 15 sacks?
12 Aug. 28Will Leonard Hankerson break out?
11 Aug. 29Can the Redskins flip their turnover ratio?
10 Aug. 30How much can Hightower contribute this year?
9 Aug. 31Was making Billy Cundiff the kicker a good move?
8 Sept. 1Will Josh Morgan be worth the investment?
7 Sept. 2What can Jarvis Jenkins contribute?
6 YesterdayIs the offensive line depth good enough?
5 TodayWill a running back by committee work?
4 TomorrowShould we expect a sophomore slump from Ryan Kerrigan?
3 ThursdayHow many wins is enough?
2 FridayHow much should RG3 run?
1 SaturdayCan RG3 . . . ?

Quick Links

Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

Redskins vs Giants Preview: 5 things you need to know as 'Skins get desperate

The Redskins travel to take on the Giants, and despite recent history holding them down in New York, at 0-2 Washington is desperate for a win. Not only are the Redskins winless and the Giants undefeated at 2-0, New York already has a NFC East division win, pushing Jay Gruden's bunch further down the standings. Here are five things to know for Sunday's action, which kicks off at 1 p.m. from The Meadowlands. Weather looks good for the game, and all the coverage starts at noon on CSN.

  1. No more talky talky - All week, it seemed New York players were taking shots at the Redskins. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins had choice words for DeSean Jackson, and former Washington linebacker Keenand Robinson sounded off about the 'Skins a few different times. That doesn't even bring into account the mountain of trash talk exchanged between Odell Beckham and Josh Norman since last year's heated matchup between the two. Finally, on Sunday, the talk will end and the gmae will start. 
  2. Got to get over the hump - The Redskins struggles this season can be attributed to multiple factors, but a big one is the offense's inability to score touchdowns. Kirk Cousins has passed for nearly 700 yards in just two games, the Washington offense has moved the ball well until they get in the Red Zone. "We’ve got to be ready to execute," offensive coordinator Sean McVay said of scoring TDs. "We did put a little extra emphasis specifically on some of those things."
  3. Giving up ground - Look at the box scores from Week 1 and 2 and it's clear the Redskins do not run the ball enough. Matt Jones has 20 carries in two games; ideally a running back would get close to 20 carries per game. Repeatedly Gruden and McVay have said they strive for a run/pass balance, but don't expect that to come this week. "We want to run the ball, we want to be balanced there’s no question about that, I think every team does. But, really at the end of the day, the best way we think to attack will be shown on Sunday," Gruden said. The Giants are giving up about 70 yards per game on the ground, and while the 'Skins absolutely need to commit to the run, this might not be the week it starts.
  4.  Man on Manning - For the second time in three weeks, the Redskins face a potential Hall of Fame quarterback in Eli Manning. Manning has had an impressive start to the season, completing nearly 74 percent of his passes with 3 TDs and just one interception. If Manning has a weakness, like any quarterback, it's when he gets rushed and hit consitently, and the Giants offensive line is not a strength. The Redskins pass rush has not been particulary effective yet this season, but team sources suggested some changes could be coming, particularly on third downs. Trent Murphy showed good burst last week against Dallas, and if he can maintain that pace and Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith play at their top level, the pressure could mount on Manning. 
  5. Playing slots - With Beckham, Cruz and Shepard, wide receiver is obviously a strength for the Giants. That said, cornerback should be a strength for the Redskins as well. Much has been made of the potential Norman-Beckham matchup, but look for the Redskins to show new looks in nickel coverage, perhaps even bringing Bashaud Breeland into the slot to combat Cruz and/or Shepard. 

Numbers & Notes:

  • The Redskins have not won in New York since 2011.
  • If Kirk Cousins throws one TD pass he will tie Gus Frerotte (48) for eighth-most career touchdown passes in Redskins history.
  • Pierre Garçon is nine catches away from 500 career receptions.
  • Ryan Kerrigan is one sack away from 50 career sacks.

Want more - listen to #RedskinsTalk Podcast below for Giants preview with Ralph Vacchiano.

Quick Links

Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

Redskins Gruden on rookie Kendall Fuller: He's just the odd man out, for now

When the Redskins drafted Kendall Fuller out of Virginia Tech, many considered it a steal. Widely considered one of the top corners in the country going into the 2015 college football season, Fuller's draft stock fell after a knee injury, allowing the Redskins to poach the Hokie in the third round. 

The good news for Fuller and Washington is that his knee has not been an issue. Fuller played throughout training camp and the preseason, showing the rookie learning curve at times while making plays and strong tackles in other spots. Through two games, however, Fuller has not made the 'Skins active roster.

"Right now he’s just the odd man out, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be forever," coach Jay Gruden said of Fuller. 

In losses to Pittsburgh and Dallas, the Redskins pass defense has struggled in spots. Josh Norman has been stout, but the rest of the defense has looked confused in assignments and missed some coverages at times. A rookie like Fuller is unlikely to be the solution, but it is possible he could help, especially facing a Giants offense with Eli Manning throwing to Odell Beckham, Victor Cruz and rookie Sterling Shepard.

Gruden did not rule out Fuller playing this week, but it didn't sound like a ringing endorsement either.

"It could be just for this week, might be next week," Gruden said, "he’ll be up and ready to roll."

The coach explained that Fuller is getting good work on the scout team and working on his readiness.

"He’s mentally getting himself there. Physically, I think he’s starting to feel really, really good. I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets up.”

On game days, the 'Skins have dressed Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Dashaun Phillips, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler at corner and then DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, Deshazor Everett and Will Blackmon at safety. Duke Ihenacho dressed for the second game but was inactive Week 1. What hurts Fuller is that some of the safeties can also play corner as needed, certainly Hall and Blackmon, and Everett is a special teams star while Blackmon works as kick returner.

Versatility is a key that for now is slowing down Fuller's progress. Coming off a knee injury, and with potential of being a top-tier corner, the Redskins are unlikely to ask much of Fuller on specials. 

Whether Fuller plays Week 3 in New York, or doesn't make the active roster until later in the season, the Redskins brass still views their rookie as a long-term asset. Impatient fans tired of watching the Washington defense give up pass completions may want to see Fuller sooner.