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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2016

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, June 22, 36 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 164 days ago. It will be 82 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 36; Preseason opener @ Falcons 50; Final roster cut 73

Top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2016

Here are the top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2016 based on rushing yards gained last year.

Adrian Peterson, Vikings (1,485 yards)—I have to say that a year ago I was skeptical that could lead the league in rushing at age 30 after having sat out most of 2014 but I was wrong. I’m not sure he’ll repeat the feat this year but at 31 he still is likely to be a handful when the Redskins host the Vikings in Week 10.

Darren McFadden, Cowboys (1,089 yards)—Will it be McFadden, who suffered a fractured elbow earlier this month in an effort to keep his cell phone from hitting the floor after he dropped it? Or will the Redskins see more of rookie Ezekiel Elliott? Or perhaps old friend Alfred Morris? It will probably be some combination of the three. It won’t really matter; with that Cowboys O-line leading the way the Redskins’ defense had better tighten up their chin traps.

Jonathan Stewart, Panthers (989 yards)—Stewart is entering his ninth season but he’s only 29 and coming off of his second-best career rushing season. He won’t be the only rushing threat on the field; Cam Newton rolled for 636 yards last year.

DeAngelo Williams, Steelers (907)—Williams took over when Le’Veon Bell went out in Week 6 with multiple torn knee ligaments. Bell himself said that the knee is “very compromised” so he may take some time to get up to speed. Although few have Bell’s level of talent Williams is very capable and there is no reason for the Redskins to relax if Bell is out or limited in Week 1.

Rashad Jennings, Giants (863)—Jennings is a decent back but the fact that he’s on the top five here tells me that the Redskins are avoiding many of the league’s better ball carriers this year. He didn’t do much in two games against the Redskins last year, gaining 46 yards on 17 carries.

The Cardinals will be tough to defend on the ground with their trio of Chris Jonson (814 rushing yards), David Johnson (581), and Andre Ellington (289).

I can also see the Bengal’s two-pronged rushing attack with Jeremy Hill (794 yards) and Giovani Bernard (730) being tough for the Redskins to stop.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

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Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast: Final refresh before 2017 season truly begins

Rich Tandler and JP Finlay wrap up the Redskins offseason and prepare for what will be the most intriguing and the most overplayed storylines at training camp in Richmond.

<<<NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT>>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back