The Redskins have been elusive about how they plan to deploy the teams three running backs this season.Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, however, might have provided a clue Thursday when he said, Whoever you think is doing the best, you keep him going."And when hes not going, you make a change presumably.That probably is not what Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr. and Alfred Morris wanted to hear, but itcouldbe the reality of the Redskins approach this season.I dont think that theres any philosophy, theres no set way on what you do, Shanahan added, speaking at Redskins Park. You put the guy in thats going to help you win the game. And I think the three guys are all capable runners.Head coach Mike Shanahan has said he knows which running back will line up behind Robert Girffin III on the Redskins first series at the Superdome on Sunday. But hes been coy when asked to disclose which one he plans to tap.In the end, though, it might not matter all that much.It doesnt matter to me which one is in because all three are capable, Kyle Shanahan said. Some do some stuff better than others. But you go with the hot hand. You want to keep him fresh so you rotate guys in. Its not a planned rotation, but I would expect all three of them to play.
Much can be learned looking to the past, at least that's what thousands of college students hear every fall when they sit down for History 101. Assuming the premise is true, perhaps something can be learned from looking back at Bruce Allen's tenure across the NFL and the quarterbacks that started for those teams.
A refresher, Allen worked with the Raiders and Bucs before coming to the Redskins. Allen started with the Raiders in 1995, and worked his way up through the front office, earning the NFL's Executive of the Year award in 2002. He left the Raiders to work with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2004, after the pair experienced much success together with the Raiders. Tampa fired Allen in 2008, and he came to work with the Redskins in 2010.
His tenure with the Raiders showcased the best QB find in his file: Rich Gannon. Before coming to Oakland, Gannon earned the journeyman title, starting 58 games over 11 seasons for the Chiefs, Vikings and, yes, the Redskins.
Once Gannon and Gruden worked together, everything clicked. The Raiders started winning games and Gannon started to pile up impressive offensive stats. He was the quarterback when Oakland lost the infamous 'Tuck Rule' playoff game against New England, and won an NFL MVP award in 2002 while guiding the Raiders to the Super Bowl (which they lost to a Jon Gruden coached Tampa team).
Gannon was a find, undoubtedly. Beyond that, Allen's resume on quarterbacks gets pretty ugly.
In fact, Kirk Cousins would probably rank as the second best QB of all Bruce Allen teams. In Tampa, the quarterback position was a revolving door, and included luminaries (sarcasm font) like Chris Simms, Brian Griese and Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs added Jeff Garcia in 2007, and he had some success, but was 37 years old at that point.
Once he got to Washington, the Redskins trotted out a collection of subpar passers like a past his prime Donovan McNabb, never actually good John Beck and Rex Grossman. Rex needs no introduction.
In 2012, the Redskins quarterback fortunes changed. The team made a very aggressive trade to draft Robert Griffin III. RG3 was supposed to be the franchise savior, and for much of his rookie season, that plan seemed to be working.
Injuries and infighting ruined Griffin's time with the Redskins, and opened the door for 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to emerge.
Now, in 2017, Cousins has twice broken the Redskins single season passing yards record and cemented himself as a quality NFL starter. His long-term future with the organization remains uncertain, as Cousins will play this season on a one-year contract and the prospect of a multi-year contract seems slim.
It's hard to draw too many conclusions looking the quarterbacks throughout Allen's tenure. Before Gannon in Oakland, the Raiders tried a variety of other journeyman QBs (Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George). One could argue they got lucky with Gannon, or that the organization brought out his best tools. Either way it's a positive grade.
In Tampa, the results look much worse. On paper, it seemed the Bucs tried to get cheap, available quarterbacks and make them work, believing strongly in their offensive system. It didn't work.
In Washington, particularly during the Grossman/Beck season, it seemed the Redskins tried a similar approach. That ended in 2012 with the trade for RG3. The Redskins paid up big time, in the form of draft picks.
Now it's arguable that a deal with Cousins can even be reached, but if that does happen, it will be because the Redskins pay up. Recent history doesn't suggest it, but this situation has never presented itself either. Cousins is a fourth-round pick that emerged after a few volatile seasons to establish himself as a Top 15 NFL starter.
There's no lesson for that in the history books.
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Over the next few weeks, Rich Tandler will take a position-by-position look at the Redskins’ 2017 depth chart as the team enjoys some R&R ahead of training camp. Some positions are easy to handicap. Others have moving parts and, thus, are more complex. So, who’s in? And who’s in trouble?
Position: Defensive line
On the roster: Jonathan Allen, Stacy McGee, Terrell McClain, Ziggy Hood, Anthony Lanier, Phil Taylor, Matt Ioannidis, Joey Mbu, A.J. Francis, Ondre Pipkins, Brandon Banks
Locks: Allen, McGee, McClain, Hood, Lanier
Allen still has plenty to learn. Don’t expect him to dominate from Week 1 on. But he will be a good one, both against the run and rushing the passer.
Maybe, just maybe, the Redskins signed a player on the rise in McGee. Despite missing seven games last year (a red flag, to be sure), he forced the first two fumbles of his career and had 2.5 sack after getting just half a sack in his first three seasons combined. He’s just 27 and perhaps the Redskins can get a good, productive, multi-year run out of a defensive line free agent signee. They are due, that’s for sure.
McClain is the more experienced of the two free agent D-linemen. He also posted career bests in forced fumbles (2) and sacks (2.5). The seven-year veteran stayed healthy last year but he missed 14 games in 2015 so that is something to keep an eye on. He will turn 29 next month.
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Hood seemed to be on the bubble all last offseason but the struggles of free agents Stephen Paea and Kendall Reyes opened the door for him. He played out of position at nose tackle for much of the season and he struggled. If things work out as they should he will be a rotational D-lineman, a role better suited to his skill set.
The coaches seem to be very pumped up about Lanier, in part because he pumped iron all offseason. He was listed at 270 pounds last year. Jim Tomsula said that he is now up to 291, a proper weight for a 3-4 defensive end. He will play some in the 3-4 but it’s likely that most of his snaps come lined up inside with Allen when the Redskins go into nickel.
On the bubble: Taylor, Ioannidis, Mbu, Francis, Pipkins
The fact that there are so many on the bubble is a result of the huge question mark that remains at nose tackle. All four of these players are candidates to make it if they can perform when the pads go on in Richmond and when the preseason starts up. Yes, even undrafted free agent Pipkins.
The best-case scenario is that Taylor stays healthy and has enough skill left to make the team and start at NT. Injuries have derailed his career after he had a couple of promising seasons as a first-round draft pick of the Browns. He hasn’t played a snap since 2014 so the 335-pounder is far from a slam dunk solution at nose.
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Ioannidis was a fifth-round pick last year who was released in the cut to 53, signed to the practice squad, then later promoted to the active roster. The Temple product played sparingly, baby steps, really. The final tally was just 103 snaps, more than 16 in a game just once. He needs to step up in training camp to make the team.
Their resumes say that Mbu and Francis should be competing to stay on the practice squad, where both spent time last year. But the nose tackle situation opens the door for them. They may be more long shots than bubble players but opportunity is there.
Long shots: Banks
If you put down the odds that all 90 players under contract have of making the 53-man roster, Banks just might be the longest shot. He’s undersized at 285 pounds and he’s an undrafted rookie out of Charlotte. But he is under contract and he will be in camp, giving him a better shot than the guys who are at home wishing they were in camp.