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Need to Know: Who replaces Helu as the Redskins’ No. 2 running back?

Mar 16, 2015, 4:50 AM EDT

Chris-Thompson-TD-vs.-Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 16, 45 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

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 is from Twitter:

One question to a customer, my friend. We’ll look at the third-down back situation here.

Given Roy Helu’s subpar pass blocking skills, running back may have been a need even if he had not signed with Oakland. It’s apparent that the Redskins did not consider him to be a major priority given the modest two-year, $4 million contract he got from the Raiders.

Helu has been the third-down/relief running back for the last two years so regardless of whether they wanted him or not, he’s gone and the team needs a replacement. So let’s go back to something we had some fun with a few weeks ago. Let’s say that we have $100 in poker chips to bet on each of the possible replacements for Helu. I’ll spread them out according to my current assessment of the chances of each to have that role in Week 1 of the regular season.

Silas Redd $35—The coaches like his work ethic and his ability. Redd, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year, displayed a good aptitude for catching the ball out of the backfield. But can he pass block well enough to nail down the role?

Chris Thompson $25—There are plenty of doubts about Thompson, including his blocking and his ability to stay healthy. But there are no doubts about his speed and if he can get the other aspects of his game together it will be hard for the coaches to keep him off of the field.

Draft pick $25—A running back like Melvin Gordon could well be the best player on the board when the Redskins’ pick in the second round comes around. Ditto for T.J. Yeldon in the third or fourth. I’m not sure that a back taken later in the day on Saturday would be ready for Week 1 action; an Alfred Morris only comes along once a decade or so.

Free agent $15—Pierre Thomas, formerly of the Saints, is 30 and may be just a one-year solution but he is a capable runner, receiver, and blocker. The remaining veteran free agent options either have had injury problems (Ahmad Bradshaw) or appear to be out of gas (Steven Jackson).

Timeline

—It’s been 78 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 181 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 35; 2015 NFL Draft 45; Redskins training camp starts 136

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. Stephfan - Mar 16, 2015 at 5:02 AM

    As much as I would like to with a proven back, we should just draft our own… I never cared for Thompson but redd is going to be a good 2nd back if he can prove he can block..

  2. tralfaz10 - Mar 16, 2015 at 6:38 AM

    Silas Redd is a good back. I think he is more than able.

  3. sidepull - Mar 16, 2015 at 6:40 AM

    I like your wager Rich.
    Redd
    Thompon
    Draft Pick

  4. nomaan78 - Mar 16, 2015 at 7:38 AM

    Alfred Morris, Ameer bdullah, Silas Redd

  5. troylok - Mar 16, 2015 at 8:01 AM

    I think they saw enough good out of Silas Redd last year that he has all but nailed down the number two role. I think the jury is still out on Thompson but his speed would make him a valuable passing downs and changeup back. I am sure they will kick the tires on a few other running backs in the preseason and one of those will be bound to stick on the practice roster or event he regular season roster if they can play teams.

  6. thankslittlebrandonbanks - Mar 16, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    Rich- I agree with you on Pierre Thomas as far as his abilities are concerned. Do you have any information or would you care to wager a guess on his price range? Logic dictates that at his age and a week into FA with negligible headlines he should be a reasonable bargain. I thought he was New Orleans’ best kept secret. If the price is right, I’d think he would be a good insurance policy to have in the fold.

  7. bangkokben - Mar 16, 2015 at 10:04 AM

    Rich, considering you didn’t even ‘waste’ a chip on Morris or DY filling that role, is that more a personal feeling or is this coaching staff not even considering them as possible alternatives?

    I had thought that they may have a one or two percent chance of filling that role.

  8. pdxskin - Mar 16, 2015 at 10:08 AM

    Ideally the 3rd down back would have blocking ability and game-changing speed in addition to the ability to catch the ball, but if I can only have two out of the three then give me blocking and catching (sorry, Chris Thompson). . I think Redd makes a good and inexpensive backup/insurance policy for Morris, but I’d like to see them bring in a veteran for the 3rd down role….as noted in the article, Pierre Thomas would be inexpensive and capable, and even though it might not be popular, I think Ray Rice would also be worth a look (if Adrian Peterson and Greg Hardy can both get second chances, then he certainly deserves one as well).

  9. alextwrs - Mar 16, 2015 at 11:12 AM

    Duke Johnson from Miami is a great pass catching RB that should be around in the 3rd round. Hopefully he falls farther than that.

  10. alextwrs - Mar 16, 2015 at 11:14 AM

    Any chance we bring Seastrunk back? I get the feeling he is another Xavier Nixon situation. Pretty talented but needs some versatility and structure.

    • mrhart76 - Mar 16, 2015 at 11:27 AM

      I agree with you on seastrunk. He should’ve made the team last year. I’m convinced he cursed a coach out on the way out the door.

  11. deepball1 - Mar 16, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    What’s with the emphasis on blocking??? they wanted Darren Sproles and he can’t block. If you want somebody to block put in Darrell Young. If you want somebody to catch passes out of the backfield and be explosive…Put Chris Thompson in and lets see if he can stay healthy.

    Gruden played him for ONE game last year and he score ONE touchdown. Hey here is an idea…why not play him for 16 games and get 16 touchdowns.

    I don’t get Gruden. You want Sproles who can’t block, then ya cut Seastrunk because he can’t block. The you play Helu who can’t block. The ya let Helu go out get lost in free agency and now Seastrunk is still unemployed. and Gruden still doesn’t know what he is going to do??? He appears lost or confused at times.

    • thankslittlebrandonbanks - Mar 16, 2015 at 11:58 AM

      Gruden is head coach not GM.

      • deepball1 - Mar 16, 2015 at 7:26 PM

        the coaching staff decides who makes the team. Not the GM.

    • darcrequiem - Mar 16, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      If your third down back can’t pass block it’s a problem. Either you tip off the defense to your play calling by putting in a back that can block or you risk getting your QB killed. Helu was pretty bad at blocking. I still remember him whiffing on a block on the punt team and causing the kick to get blocked.

      • deepball1 - Mar 16, 2015 at 7:31 PM

        its what I said. Helu could not block. But Sproles cannot block either. So if you want a blocker you put in D. Young. How many teams have a guy who is a great 3rd down back AND can block? Quick…off the top of your head…… That’s what I thought.

        Does Shady McCoy block linebackers? no. so everybody including the skins coaches needs to stop fantasizing or complaining about blocking. Either you decide you want a blocker in or a 3rd down electrifying back. Cause if you don’t have somebody who can do both, you construct your 3rd down plays to adjust.

        • Rich Tandler - Mar 16, 2015 at 7:51 PM

          Sproles has been charged with three sacks in the last four years and just a few hits and hurries (PFF). Now he only gets asked to pass blocks about twice a game so it’s a small sample size. Still, when asked to do it he does it well.

          Of course, if they just send Sproles out into a pattern they have to keep back someone, a TE or another back, to block. If you have someone that talented it’s worth it. But in most cases you want the back to be able to block.

          Shady? Pass blocked about 10 plays per game under Reid, about 3 X per game under chip. Five sacks allowed in last four years. That’s called being a professional, doing your job.

          If you want to be a well-rounded back and earn snaps you should learn to block. Period. Size has nothing to do with it. Nobody is born with the the ability to stand in front of a much bigger man and impede his path to the quarterback. It takes guts, it takes some film study, it takes getting your butt kicked a few times, it takes practice. If a back can’t become competent at blocking, he just doesn’t want to. If I’m a coach, I don’t want a back who won’t learn how to do it to take the field.

          “Fantasizing” about having a blocking back? Really?

          > > >

  12. darcrequiem - Mar 16, 2015 at 12:28 PM

    Silas Redd, while he lacks Helu’s speed. He is a much better in pass pro.

  13. rarreola619 - Mar 16, 2015 at 1:50 PM

    If we could get Pierre Thomas on the cheap I would take him on a 1 yr deal. He is reliable and does all 3 aspects of a RB you can ask. IMO he has always been undervalued.
    I am not a Chris Thompson fan. There are 100 versions of him coming out in college every year.
    Silas Redd is promising but not polished.
    We are not drafting a RB in first 3-4 picks. Too many other needs to fill

  14. deepball1 - Mar 16, 2015 at 7:40 PM

    can somebody please just give Chris Thompson the ball and say “now let’s see what you can do”. Why are we always drafting guys who sit on the bench, then we cut them, and then we draft another guy who sits on the bench….rinse and repeat

    I never have understood the Redskins philosophy, especially about drafting kickers and then cutting them. OR drafting a tight end and then cutting him….or drafting a running back and then cutting him. THREE draft picks, and 3 cuts in 2014. And Chris Thompson is still on the bench awaiting his bus ticket I assume.

    I hope Scott M has ended this fruitless and worthless policy. Chris Thompson remained on the bench last year while Roy Helu was missing blocks all year. Is there ANYBODY who thinks that made sense.

    • bangkokben - Mar 17, 2015 at 9:44 AM

      I know this gets in your crawl because you’ve posted it multiple times. Every team has done this in the past four years. The good teams do it every year because they’ve got talented rosters. GMs often have final say on the roster and make coaches keep every draft pick for a year despite guys not being worth it. The times we had Vinny raving about every draft pick making the team. Where are they now? Undrafted free agents also try to make the team and Silas Redd made it over Lache Seastrunk. Get over it.

    • bangkokben - Mar 17, 2015 at 11:43 AM

      2014 draft picks no longer on team that drafted them
      Patriots: Jon Halapio, Jemea Thomas, and Jeremy Gallon
      Jets: Tajh Boyd, Brandon Dixon, Jeremiah George, and Jalen Saunders
      Cowboys: Terrance Mitchell and Ahmad Dixon
      Steelers: Wesley Johnson and Shaquille Richardson
      Bengals: Lavelle Westbrooks
      Vikings: Kendall James
      Lions: Nate Freese
      Saints: Khairi Fortt and Tavon Rooks
      Panthers: Tyler Gaffney
      Chargers: Marion Grice and Tevin Reese
      Rams: Garrett Gilbert, Mitchell Van Dyk, and Michael Sam
      Cardinals: Walt Powell
      49ers: Chris Borland
      Seahawks: Garrett Scott and Kiero Small

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