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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' game plan at running back?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' game plan at running back?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 28, 27 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’ve flipped into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least a few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today's question comes from Twitter:

After four years of relative stability at the running back position it feels like the Redskins are about to undergo some upheaval there. Alfred Morris, the starter for those four years, is set to be a free agent. The player many thought would replace him, Matt Jones, flashed some potential but inconsistency, fumbles, and injuries raised some doubts about him.

Will Morris return?

I don’t think that Morris will be back but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. I think the Redskins like a lot about him—his dependability, his work ethic, the fact that he’s a solid citizen and that he is a good example for younger players. But the organization wants a prime back who is more dynamic, who can make something happen when catching a pass out of the backfield, who is a threat to break off a long run at any time, who can take a play that is blocked for three yards and make five or six. Morris used to be able to do the latter but he hasn’t done it consistently the last two years.

I don’t think the Redskins are going to offer him a contract before free agency starts or at least not anything that he would accept. If he looks around for a while and can’t find anything and is willing to return for a fairly inexpensive contract he could end up back in Ashburn. But I don’t expect that to happen; I think a team that emphasizes zone blocking will give him a reasonable deal and his time in Washington will be over.

Won't hand it to Jones

But if he goes, they won’t hand the position to Jones. From what I have heard they like Jones but they are not sure that he will be able to fix everything he needs to fix between now and September. He’s a part of the team’s future but he’s not necessarily the 2016 workhorse running back.

If Morris ends up leaving, then, who will be either ahead of or right behind Jones on the depth chart? I’m sure that McCloughan would rather find one in the draft. But the problem is you can’t count on finding one there who is a decent value when your pick comes up. McCloughan doesn’t want to draft for need.

What about Thomas?

Might Pierre Thomas re-sign? There is some mutual interest. But Thomas would have been playing for the Redskins all season but he chose to sit out rather than play for what the Redskins were offering. I don’t see the Redskins upping their offer substantially with Thomas being a year older (he turned 32 last month). So it may be up to him to lower his demands if he wants to play in Washington again.

I know someone will ask about Silas Redd, so let me address that situation. He will get a shot at making the team as he should be recovered from last year’s knee injury. But he is less proven that Jones is; I can’t see the team figuring that he can be the Plan B if Jones struggles.

A possible scenario

There are a lot of things that could happen here but let me lay out a scenario. Morris leaves as a free agent, signing with the Falcons. The draft comes and goes and the only back who is the best available player is a seventh-rounder who is destined for a practice squad. The Redskins look at the secondary free agent market, which will have some good players who are starting to get desperate for a job. Maybe they sign Thomas, maybe they get someone like Ahmad Bradshaw. You can fill in the blank with your favorite name, there will be some experienced backs looking for work.

One more thing about the draft—no matter what round, if McCloughan sees a running back as the best available player, he’ll take him. That could be Ezekiel Elliott in the first round or Derrick Henry in the second or Jonathan Williams of Arkansas in the third or fourth. That is the wild card in all of this.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 18 days ago. It will be about 227 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 27; NFL free agency starts 41; 2016 NFL draft 91

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Need to Know: Redskins look for fifth straight win over Eagles

Need to Know: Redskins look for fifth straight win over Eagles

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 5, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:05; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice approx. 3:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 12; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 17; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 25

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
C Spencer Long (concussion), S Will Blackmon (concussion)
Long's concussion could force roster move

First look at Redskins vs. Eagles

The last time: The Redskins won 27-20 at FedEx Field in Week 6 in a game that was not really as close as the score indicated. The Redskins outgained the Eagles 493 yards to 239 and had the ball for 10 more minutes. Philly scored on a kickoff return and an interception return in a three-minute span in the second quarter and that was about all they had. The Redskins have now beaten the Eagles four straight times. 

The Eagles leaders: Quarterback Carson Wentz got off to a hot start, posting three passer ratings of over 100 in his first four games. In eight games since his passer rating is 70.1 and his high in a game is 91.4. Leading rusher Ryan Mathews had his first 100-yard game in Week 10; he shares the load with Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. Jordan Matthews (57 receptions, 686 yards) is expected back after missing last week with an ankle injury. Sacks leader Brandon Graham (5.0) has only one sack in the last six games.

Be on the lookout: The Eagles have been getting it done on special teams for years. This year they have two kickoff return touchdowns and Darren Sproles averages 13.7 yards per punt return including a 66-yarder.

Hodgepodge: A Washington win would put them 2.5 games ahead of the Eagles with three to play. Barring a Philly win out/Redskins lose out scenario the Redskins would be out of last place in the NFC East in consecutive years for the first time since 2002-2003 . . . The Redskins already are ensured of avoiding double-digit losses in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2001-2002 . . . The Eagles have allowed over 400 yards of offense in two of their last three games.

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When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

The Redskins best pass cacther did not play in a loss to the Cardinals, and it appears there is still no clear timeline for Jordan Reed's return to the field. 

"Jordan will be day-to-day," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "You know, we just have to wait and see."

Gruden issued the same statement on Reed last week, and the tight end proceeded to miss all Redskins practices for the week and was announced out for the Arizona game on Friday. Reed's injury came on Thanksgiving in Dallas when he separated his shoulder diving in the end zone for a Kirk Cousins' pass during the first half.

Incredibly, Reed returned in the second half and caught two touchdowns while playing in immense pain. Gruden and Cousins used words like 'stunned' and 'surprised' talking about Reed's return in the Dallas game, but looking forward to Philadelphia, it's hard to know what to expect from the tight end's shoulder.

"Everybody is different with these types of injuries and hopefully he is a fast healer but we’ll take him day-to-day, get him his treatment and go from there," the coach said. "I can’t predict it."

For the season, Reed has 59 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games. Reed missed two games earlier this year after sustaining a concussion against the Ravens.

Without Reed in the lineup against the Cardinals, the Redskins offense dipped in production. Cousins threw for less than 300 yards for the first time in three games, though backup tight end Vernon Davis had five catches for 47 yards. 

If Reed practices Wednesday, even in a limited role, would be a good sign for the 'Skins tight end. 

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