For the running backs competing for a reserve role on the Redskins’ 53-man roster, Thursday’s game will represent a final opportunity to convince Coach Jay Gruden that they're worthy of a spot.
“Alfred [Morris] and Darrel [Young] are pretty much locks, and Roy Helu has done some good things,” Gruden said Tuesday. “After that, we’ve got a logjam. And you don’t like logjams for a back because it’s hard to get them all the ample carries and touches out of the backfield, the catches to prove their worth.”
The logjam Gruden was referring to includes Chris Thompson, Lache Seastrunk, Silas Redd and Evan Royster.
Thomson will make his return at Raymond James Stadium after missing the last two games with an ankle sprain. He’s a Gruden favorite, but he must perform well and, just as important, emerge from the contest unscathed.
“I got to show them I can make it through some games—and I will show them,” Thompson said. “I’m going to make sure I finish this game out.”
Gruden added: “As far as Chris Thompson’s concerned, one of the top traits a running back has to have—and my dad told me a long time ago—is durability. And he’s got to prove to us that he can stay healthy. He might have to play through some pain—nicks and knacks—for us to count on him on a Sunday afternoon. So this is a big game for Chris.”
Seastrunk, meantime, will also return Thursday. He suited up for Saturday’s game in Baltimore after arriving from his grandmother’s funeral earlier in the day but he did not play. Despite missing one game, Seastrunk, a sixth round pick in May, leads the Redskins in rushing yards with 98 on 19 carries for an impressive 5.2 yard per carry average. He has yet to be targeted with a pass.
Redd has shown flashes throughout training camp and the preseason. The rookie has 78 yards rushing on 20 carries. He’s also caught two passes for 18 yards.
As for Royster, he’s amassed 28 yards on nine carries and also hauled in four passes for 56 yards. The fourth year pro is the most experienced of the bunch and is also one of the smartest players on the roster.
It’s unclear if they’re battling for one or two spots. But they won’t have to wait long to find out. Gruden said he’ll start informing players of their status on Friday morning. The final 53-man roster is due Saturday at 4 p.m.
“They have to do it out here” on the field, Gruden said. “Some of them have missed some time, which has hurt their chances. Some of them have missed protections, which have hurt their chances. We have got to try to do the best we can Thursday night to try to get some guys in question some touches and see what they can do. Make sure ball security is on point. See if they can play through some injuries. See how durable they are obviously and see what they can do in protection and [catching the ball] out of the backfield."
Gruden added that while Thursday’s performance will be important, he’ll intends to grade the backs on their training camp and preseason performance, not just Thursday's performance.
“It’s going to be hard, you know?” Gruden said. “A lot of it is going to come down to the total picture as far as what they’ve done since OTAs and training camp and the other preseason games. But that right there is probably one of the tougher positions because we have so many” players.