Free agency is done. The draft is history. Rookie minicamp is in the rearview and the 90-man offseason roster has been filled out. Now comes the difficult part for Jay Gruden and his staff: putting it all together. With OTAs set to begin today, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will examine top priorities on Gruden’s to-do list as he prepares the team for training camp in Richmond later this summer.
Up today …
Running backs to-do list
Tandler: The Redskins’ depth chart seems to be missing a running back. The “lead dog” will be Matt Jones but there really isn’t a Plan B there. Maybe seventh-round pick Keith Marshall can contribute but if Jones is injured or ineffective for any significant amount of time—and he experienced stretches of both during his rookie 2015 season—it’s difficult to see Marshall carrying the load.
Perhaps the coaches will give Mack Brown a shot. He bounced on and off of the practice squad last year. The 24-year-old former Florida Gator might get a chance during OTAs to earn some significant snaps during training camp. He’s a long shot but part of OTAs is figuring out which players on the fringe of the roster might be able to make a legitimate push to make the team in July and August.
Still, it really feels like they are waiting for another running back to arrive. There has been plenty of talk about bringing back Pierre Thomas, who contributed during the last four games of last season. However, the 31-year-old veteran remains unsigned. Many have speculated that Arian Foster, released by the Texans, would be a good fit. But he is recovering from a torn Achilles and he can’t yet pass a physical so the speculation remains just that.
The process of identifying Jones’ backup is going to start in OTAs but I get a feeling it will continue into training camp.
El-Bashir: As the roster stands now, the Redskins’ plan for an improved rushing attack appears to revolve around Matt Jones staying healthy and making a huge leap production-wise in his second season.
To me, that seems like a big ask. Jones does boast impressive size for a runner and he possesses loads of talent. But he had a rough rookie season, one marked by injuries (he missed four games), fumbles (five on 169 touches) and inefficiency (league-worst 3.4 yards per carry among qualified rushers).
The good news is Jones should be fully recovered from the toe and hip ailments that sidelined him in '15. And, based on the second half of last season, he appears to be recovering from an acute case of fumble-itis.
But what’s the backup plan if Jones' anticipated improvement stalls? Oft-injured Chris Thompson, who is recovering from shoulder surgery? Speedy seventh round draft pick Keith Marshall? As Tandler said, it seems like there should be a 'TBD' listed on the running back depth chart entering OTAs.
Over the next month, though, Jones will get the chance to quell any concerns about his ability to shoulder the load. But it can also go the other way. If there's any doubt, in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins turn to the free agent market for some veteran insurance.