Alfred Morris was the best draft pick by the Washington Redskins in a long time. The Florida Atlantic product was taken in the sixth round and was known for not being able to hold on to the football. So what does he do? Rushes for 3,962 yards on 4.5 yards per carry, 28 touchdowns, and just 11 fumbles in his young three year career. How is Morris rewarded by new general manager Scot McCloughan? The drafting of a big and physical runner by the name of Matt Jones in the third round.
Unlike what many may think, Matt Jones is not here to take away Morris’s job, at least for now. Beyond this season may be a different story as Morris will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. However, both head coach Jay Gruden and McCloughan have openly stated that they would love to have Alfred back and possibly as a career long Redskin.
A big factor for Morris’s future will be how he can adjust and perform in the power blocking scheme of offensive line coach Bill Callahan, as opposed to the zone running scheme he used to run under Mike and Kyle Shanahan. Some have faulted Morris’s drop in yards per carry from 4.73 in his first two seasons to 4.05 last year to his reliance on athletic quarterback Robert Griffin III drawing extra defenders and/or the toll of 876 carries in a short career taking effect. In essence it might just be a make or break year for Morris this season as it is with many players held over from the pre-McCloughan regime. Regardless, Morris will be given every opportunity, like Griffin, to return to 2012 form in an attempt to revive a franchise.
That said, Matt Jones will see lots of playing time and not just as a third down back. As a physical runner, Jones is well suited for Callahan’s power run game. Just look at what he did to Texans CB Kevin Johnson that is believed to have started brawls the next day. Jones will probably be heavily evaluated during the preseason, assuming he gets over his tweaked knee injury, which Gruden said is not too much to worry about. From their, Jones could develop into simply the back that gives Morris a breather to splitting carries with the Redskins’ work horse. Time will tell but whatever it is, Jones is likely to have a significant impact on the Redskins offense this year.
Matt jones! Took that poor guys soul pic.twitter.com/6AmZnBYK2G
— Carol (@its_carolxo) August 7, 2015
The Redskins have traditionally only utilized two running backs at a time although always keeping a third available on the active roster. Matt Jones took the backup spot relinquished by Roy Helu Jr. who opted to sign with the Oakland Raiders this off season, but the third string running back spot is still up in the air.
Chris Thompson has had injuries hamper a possibly promising career with the Redskins. The speedster out of Florida State made the team as a fifth round pick his rookie year but later lost his return specialist role to Josh Morgan for ineffectiveness. Thompson would later have his season cut short due to a torn left labrum injury. Last year, Thompson was also dealing with nagging injuries during the offseason which seemed to keep him from performing at his potential. He lost the third-string running back position to rookie Silas Redd but wound up on the team’s practice squad.
Things seem to be different this year as Thompson is healthy and ready to go. Gruden has already given the 24 year old high praise.
“I think Chris Thompson is really starting to emerge as a third-down back, if we can obviously keep him healthy. He’s done an excellent both in the running game and the passing game and he’s done an excellent job in protection so far.”
There is still a lot of time before the cuts to a 53 man roster have to be made including four preseason encounters, but Thompson has put himself firmly in control of his own destiny. Thompson was also listed third on the team’s first official depth chart behind Morris and Jones, but ahead of his competition in Redd and another speedster Trey Williams.
Silas Redd is an overall good running back, but lacks the excellence in any particular area as a running back to take his game to the next level. Williams on the other hand is lightning quick and could leave Thompson in his dust; however at 5′ 7” and 175 pounds, it is possible that Williams’s body would not be able to withstand repeated punishing hits of NFL defenders. With Thompson also listed as the third string kick returner behind WRs Andre Roberts and Jamison Crowder, the FSU product is all but ensured a roster spot (barring injury *knock on wood*). All of this conversation about a third string running back might be mostly irrelevant during the season as Morris and Jones are guaranteed to carry the load. Thompson however, provides the change of pace speed that the Redskins will do without in the loss of Helu.
It should be noted that although not discussed as a back, FB Darrel Young will continue in his role as a primary blocker and short yardage carrier on dive plays.
Projected Week 1 Depth Chart: Alfred Morris, Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Darrel Young
Come back and visit District Sports Page for the next position outlook on receivers tomorrow.