Skip to content

Will the Redskins go to running back by committee?

May 13, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT


The Redskins’ ranked 19th in the NFL in yards gained last year and their 4.2 yards per carry ranked 15th. That’s not good enough for a team that is as unsettled as the Redskins are at quarterback. Whether it’s Robert Griffin III behind center or Kirk Cousins or Colt McCoy, the QB will benefit greatly from a running game that is better than something right around the league average.

So there will be changes in way they do things. One is a more power-oriented ground game. The other may be some form of running back by committee.

“The running game nowadays, you need to have a couple of guys that can tote it,” Jay Gruden told Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 earlier this week. “Sixteen games is a long time, that’s a lot of games, a lot of carries, that’s a lot of hits on these running backs.”

Gruden said that he would like to split up the carries more than he did last year, when he went with what was mostly a one-back attack. Alfred Morris had 265 rushing attempts. The other tailbacks on the roster, Roy Helu, Silas Redd, and Chris Thompson, combined for 59 rushing attempts. That is 82 percent of the carries for Morris, 18 percent for the rest.

In his three years as the offensive coordinator with the Bengals, Gruden spread the workload in different ways in different seasons. In 2012 he had BenJarvus Green-Ellis take 80 percent of the tailback rushing attempts. But in 2011 it was a 70-30 split between Cedric Benson and Bernard Scott. And in 2013 Cincinnati drafted Giovani Bernard and gave him 170 carries to 220 for Green-Ellis (that’s a 56-44 split in percentage terms).

So maybe splitting up the running back carries isn’t so much a matter of philosophy for Gruden as much as doing things the way the quality of his stable of running backs dictates. He told Sheehan and Loverro that he will see who can earn the carries that Morris won’t get.

“I think you give Alfred the bulk of [the carries] and then Matt Jones comes in there, it could be Chris Thompson, it could be Silas Redd,” he said. “We’ll see how camp goes to see who deserves the carries, who’s going to get the carries. They have to prove then can protect the ball, No. 1, and prove they can pick up blitzes, No. 2 and then they will get some carries behind Alfred.”

Redd and Thompson are holdovers from last year but they have combined for only 25 career rushing attempts. Jones was the team’s third-round pick in this year’s draft.

Most backs come into the NFL with some innate ability to run the football. But it’s learning to do the other necessary, less glamorous work that separates an NFL running back from a guy who can find a hole and pick up some yards. If Gruden can find another running back or two we might see more of a running back by committee approach than we have seen with this team in the past.

  1. skip36 - May 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM

    Former Syracuse football LB Dyshawn Davis is opened to playing strong safety at the next level, Davis said I can do whatever they want me to do, he ran the 40-yard dash between 4.5 and 4.8 seconds at 6’2″ 220lbs., that’s dam good, why not try him out at safety, he seems to light for LB, nothing to loose very thing to gain. HTTR

    • troylok - May 13, 2015 at 3:12 PM

      He’d be a better linebacker if he could pack on some pounds. He’s a pretty good tackler and with that speed he could end up doing some things. Probably this year he will be a teamer or a practice squad guy.

  2. troylok - May 13, 2015 at 3:16 PM

    Gruden needs to improve the plays he has for the running game. Part of the diminished production is the fault of the coach. There were a few games last year when on first down I knew what was coming. We need a little more play action on first down and perhaps a few shotgun draws on second and long.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - May 13, 2015 at 9:30 PM

      Also some games where he forgot that you can use running plays in the 2nd half.

    • shermanp79 - May 14, 2015 at 11:07 AM

      Morris struggled with mixing in the power scheme. With him being a one trick pony it’s not to hard for defenses to shut it down. Getting a back in that can catch creates more for a defense to think about. We need some big play ability , putting someone else in on 1st and 2nd downs will open things up. Gruden likes the screen game, he really was limited with Morris. I would of used Helu more but for some reason both he and Shanahan didn’t use him as much. He isn’t a strong runner, which probably was a factor. The defenses knew what was coming based on who was in the game. Last year Gruden had to figure out what guys could do or were comfortable doing. It’s not that Morris can’t catch at all, he just doesn’t look comfortable and doesn’t set the catch up right to maximize the yards he can get out of it. I expect to see more early screen passes and more runs on 3rd downs with some new OL and a power back. He did it fine in CIN. Last year he had a mixed bag without personnel to run things as he wanted. I know there was some talk about Morris being able to take a pitch. Things will be much better this year. Although I’m not convinced Thompson can stay healthy which will really hinder things, which is why Williams was brought in as a UDFA.

  3. hk2000 - May 13, 2015 at 10:28 PM

    Why are we looking at what was done in Cincy? Gruden WAS NOT the coach there. That’s the problem, he can run an offense, all be it an average one, but he cannot run a team.

    • Rich Tandler - May 14, 2015 at 5:27 AM

      Simple. He was the offensive coordinator, called the plays, determined who carried the ball.

  4. bowlregard - May 14, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    I look for them to figure out ways to get the ball in the hands of Trey Williams.

    • shermanp79 - May 14, 2015 at 10:41 AM

      He has some agility and quickness, I think he makes the team and could help in KO returns too. If Crowder takes PR then that should add some sizzle to our boring return game.

  5. shermanp79 - May 14, 2015 at 10:38 AM

    I think they should of used Helu more in the past so I am all for getting guys on the field to help. We need more big plays and think it’s worth cutting into Morris’s time. With his Contract situation after the year, he may not be back. I don’t see them paying him 4-5m as an limited and average back. I want to see Jones in a substantial role with Thompson and Redd on 3rd down. The UDFA they brought in may be able to help too. If we had a Bell or Murray then fine but we don’t, they could of taken a different back, a 3rd rounder should have a big impact so I’m interested to see what Jones and the other guys can do. Archives

Follow Us On Twitter