Get ready for running back by committee in Washington.
Matt Jones carried the ball almost exclusively for the Redskins early in the 2016 season. He lost his starting job to Rob Kelly, who carried most of the load in the last nine games. Jones appears to be on the way out of Redskins Park after they added Samaje Perine in the fourth round of the draft.
Will the Redskins continue to utilize Kelley as the prime running back with Chris Thompson handling third-down duties? Or will Perine come in to share the load?
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Redskins offensive coordinator Mat Cavanaugh indicated that they will play it by ear.
“Rob obviously has earned the starting job, and I think really it’s a game-to-game evaluation, an in-game evaluation of how well he’s doing and how winded he is – ‘Does he need a blow?’ said Cavanaugh. “We just feel like we’ve got depth at that position now with a lot of similar-type players: stocky, quick-footed, strong, smart guys that can sub in for each other. I wouldn’t put a pitch count on any of them, but obviously if a guy’s got a hot hand and he’s feeling good and he’s not gassed, we’ll keep him on the field. Ideally, maybe have some third-down reps too.”
That last part means that they could play Kelley or Perrine on third downs. They could also expand Thompson out of his usual third-down role.
“Historically here, Chris has been our third-down back, but there’s no reason why can’t play him on first and second down,” said Cavanaugh. “But just rotating the backs, keeping them fresh, we’ve got confidence in all of them.”
All them with the possible exception of Jones, that is. The third-year back, who was the unquestioned starting running back through the offseason program, training camp, and the first seven games of the regular season last year, has not been present at OTAs. Around the time of the draft there were reports that the Redskins were trying to trade Jones. Whether they can pull off a deal for a player who seems destined to be cut at some point remains to be seen.
Of course, the OTAs are voluntary so no matter what Jones’ status on the roster is he is not required to attend. Next week minicamp comes and attendance is mandatory. Cavanaugh doesn’t know if the threat of a significant fine will be enough to bring Jones in.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you,” said Cavanaugh. “I wasn’t privy to him leaving the building and I’m not privy to if he’s deciding to come back or not. I think management can best answer that.”
Regardless of what Jones ends up doing it seems that Cavanaugh is happy to help sort out roles for Kelley, Perine, and Thompson.