Countdown to OTAs: A crowded backfield

Countdown to OTAs: A crowded backfield
May 19, 2013, 6:45 am
Share This Post

Next Monday, Redskins Park will be abuzz as organized team activities (OTAs) get underway. For the first time since January, the parking lots will be completely full. The practice fields, weight and locker rooms will be, too, as coaches, veteran players and prospects officially begin their preparations for the 2013 NFL season.

In the meantime, we’re going to address some of the offseason-related questions we’re hearing from fans. Up today...

Question: How is the battle at running back going to shake out?

Anwser: Just like the competition at right tackle, the battle at running back figures to rank among the more intriguing ones as OTAs begin next week.

There are seven running backs on the Redskins’ roster right now. And only one – Alfred Morris – appears guaranteed of a job in Washington this season. 

Kyle Shanahan’s offense led the NFL in rushing in 2012 with 2,709 yards. Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin III combined for almost 88 percent of the team’s carries, 90 percent of the production and all but two of the 22 touchdowns on the ground.

Griffin, however, is coming off major knee surgery and doesn’t seem likely to carry the ball 120 times again. Morris, meantime, remained remarkably dependable despite his rugged running style. There’s no guarantee that will continue, however. 

So it’s important the Redskins find another back (or two) capable of reducing some of the load on Morris and RG3, particularly a change-of-pace/third down back that can give defenses one more weapon to worry about.

Based on the current roster, the battles appear to be shaping up as Evan Royster vs. Jawan Jamison and Roy Helu Jr. vs. Chris Thompson for the final two spots behind Morris.

The next two weeks figure to be particularly important for Helu, Thompson and Jamison. Helu needs to show that he’s sufficiently recovered from the toe injury that sidelined him for 13 games last season. Thompson must showcase his work habits and ability to pick up the playbook while watching from sidelines as he recovers from knee surgery. And Jamison simply needs to prove he’s better than his 228th overall status suggests.

The competition will be intense, and it will likely evolve in the coming months. And, just when you think it’s settled, remember this: virtually no one expected Morris, a sixth rounder, to claim the No. 1 role last summer. 

So buckle up for an interesting ride.

Best-case scenario: Both Helu or Thompson get healthy and push one another in a battle to be the third down option the team lacked last season.

Worst-case scenario: Helu and Thompson continue to struggle with their injuries and the Redskins enter the 2013 season minus a change-of-pace option for the second straight season.