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Need to Know: What is the Redskins’ game plan at running back?

Jan 28, 2016, 4:58 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 28, 27 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Question of the day

We’ve flipped into offseason mode with Need to Know. At least 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 comes from Twitter:

After four years of relative stability at the running back position it feels like the Redskins are about to undergo some upheaval there. Alfred Morris, the starter for those four years, is set to be a free agent. The player many thought would replace him, Matt Jones, flashed some potential but inconsistency, fumbles, and injuries raised some doubts about him.

Will Morris return?

I don’t think that Morris will be back but I wouldn’t rule it out completely. I think the Redskins like a lot about him—his dependability, his work ethic, the fact that he’s a solid citizen and that he is a good example for younger players. But the organization wants a prime back who is more dynamic, who can make something happen when catching a pass out of the backfield, who is a threat to break off a long run at any time, who can take a play that is blocked for three yards and make five or six. Morris used to be able to do the latter but he hasn’t done it consistently the last two years.

I don’t think the Redskins are going to offer him a contract before free agency starts or at least not anything that he would accept. If he looks around for a while and can’t find anything and is willing to return for a fairly inexpensive contract he could end up back in Ashburn. But I don’t expect that to happen; I think a team that emphasizes zone blocking will give him a reasonable deal and his time in Washington will be over.

Won’t hand it to Jones

But if he goes, they won’t hand the position to Jones. From what I have heard they like Jones but they are not sure that he will be able to fix everything he needs to fix between now and September. He’s a part of the team’s future but he’s not necessarily the 2016 workhorse running back.

If Morris ends up leaving, then, who will be either ahead of or right behind Jones on the depth chart? I’m sure that McCloughan would rather find one in the draft. But the problem is you can’t count on finding one there who is a decent value when your pick comes up. McCloughan doesn’t want to draft for need.

What about Thomas?

Might Pierre Thomas re-sign? There is some mutual interest. But Thomas would have been playing for the Redskins all season but he chose to sit out rather than play for what the Redskins were offering. I don’t see the Redskins upping their offer substantially with Thomas being a year older (he turned 32 last month). So it may be up to him to lower his demands if he wants to play in Washington again.

I know someone will ask about Silas Redd, so let me address that situation. He will get a shot at making the team as he should be recovered from last year’s knee injury. But he is less proven that Jones is; I can’t see the team figuring that he can be the Plan B if Jones struggles.

A possible scenario

There are a lot of things that could happen here but let me lay out a scenario. Morris leaves as a free agent, signing with the Falcons. The draft comes and goes and the only back who is the best available player is a seventh-rounder who is destined for a practice squad. The Redskins look at the secondary free agent market, which will have some good players who are starting to get desperate for a job. Maybe they sign Thomas, maybe they get someone like Ahmad Bradshaw. You can fill in the blank with your favorite name, there will be some experienced backs looking for work.

One more thing about the draft—no matter what round, if McCloughan sees a running back as the best available player, he’ll take him. That could be Ezekiel Elliott in the first round or Derrick Henry in the second or Jonathan Williams of Arkansas in the third or fourth. That is the wild card in all of this.


—The Redskins last played a game 18 days ago. It will be about 227 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 27; NFL free agency starts 41; 2016 NFL draft 91

In case you missed it

  1. bk70 - Jan 28, 2016 at 6:30 AM

    Scot McCloughan will earn his salary on the 2016 RB positions. Redskins have two less experienced RBs in Jones and Redd, we have Thompson recovering from surgery and only a slim chance of getting Morris back on a team friendly contract. Seems like we need some veteran w/o injury history before drafting another rookie. This will play out this off season. HTTR

    • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:05 AM

      Jones is not that bad. I still think he can get it done. Let him get a hard training camp in and he might just emerge big time. Jones can catch the ball out of the back field and is more dynamic in the screen game etc.
      He has enough tools to get the job done. We really just need 1 back to add to Jones, Thompson, and ?
      Adding Henry like Tandler mentioned sounds pretty interesting. A Jones, Thompson, Henry backfield. I will take that any day.

      • ET - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM

        No, Jones isn’t that bad. He might turn out to be pretty good. But I think most of us can agree that he’s not ready to shoulder the responsibility of being the primary back.

        I expect one non-flashy veteran signing and at least one intriguing draft prospect. But Jones will have the opportunity to prove himself.

    • Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:43 AM

      I don’t expect Silas redd to make the roster as for right now he’s the odd man out with matt Jones and Chris Thompson bein the two and three RBs…A free agent vet will take Alfred morris spot

  2. kenlinkins - Jan 28, 2016 at 9:58 AM

    Rich, Is the new GM really the “Step by Step” and “We have a plan and are going to follow it” type we fans see in interviews? From what I have seen he never seems to get ahead of himself, never seems to skip a step in the process or fire from the hip (which is why the Amerson cut was so shocking to me). You can just about set your watch by this guy. What is your read on him, is he really as straight forward as he seems to be?

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 28, 2016 at 12:49 PM

      I think he has a set of principles and he stick by them, if that’s what you’re saying.

  3. goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 9:59 AM

    Cousins?! Pro Bowl Snub?! What are these reporters talking about. Not to hate on Cousins at all cause he had a great season but the team didnt beat a team with a winning record, add on a last place schedule, and a weak NFC East and Cousins did well at the end of the year. ProBowl voting is heavy on what you did early on in the season, not just after the half way mark. Even though his stats were much better than some-of the other alternate qb’s it is hard to see Cousins as a probowler. We need to pull back the reigns here a little bit.
    If he continues playing the way he is now next season he will be a pro bowler for sure. But until then I dont see Cousins as a snub I see him as just missing the mark. When it comes down to Teddy getting picked over Cousins I must believe that a majority of fans still think overall Teddy is a better QB than Cousins.

    • Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:33 AM

      Exactly… I think Jordan reed got subbed

    • bangkokben - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:57 AM

      If you think any of the pro-bowl voters were looking that closely to the Redskins record against winning teams, you’re more deluded than the pro bowl is itself. It is all based on what you did in the past. Next year Cousins and Reed simply need to preform to 80% of this past year’s level and still be 9-7 and they’ll be pro-bowlers. By your same ridiculous logic, Eli Manning wouldn’t have been a pro-bowler. Or was it that the 6-10 Giants one victory against a winning team (week 3 home game against the Redskins) enough for pro-bowl voters? Break-out seasons for traditionally poor clubs rarely make the pro-bowl – unless the guys are 1st rounders.

      • rtcwon - Jan 29, 2016 at 2:16 AM

        Nothing ever needs to be said about the Pro Bowl again. (except maybe add Pro Bowl bonuses are extinct, haven’t been in contracts for years)

    • ajbus1 - Jan 28, 2016 at 1:08 PM

      I live up in Minnesota nowadays and even up here they are scratching their heads about Teddy over Cousins.

    • John - Jan 28, 2016 at 3:00 PM

      Seriously, Bridgewater and Taylor over Cousins? Vikings had a comparable record but Cousins outperformed Bridgewater. Bills had a worse record and Cousins outperformed Taylor.
      Fan voting in the early part of the season throws off the vote, that plus the anti-Redskins vote from the politically correct crowd.
      The other comment that you make the Pro Bowl next season if your 80% of what you did this year is bunk. Taylor did not play for the Bills last year. Bridgewater was a rookie last year and wasn’t all that.

      • rtcwon - Jan 29, 2016 at 2:29 AM

        The figure was obviously just illustrative of the fact balloting is on reputation, so Kirk and Reed will make it next year even if their stats aren’t as good as this year.

        And these alternate QBs replacing guys selected last year, disproves nothing. Besides, alternates are pretty much hand picked by Mara, aren’t they?

      • bangkokben - Jan 29, 2016 at 12:24 PM

        Look, I already addressed Bridgewater and Taylor in my comment a couple of days ago when this subject came up. See below. I order to not be redundant, I was addressing the perception that the Redskins record against winning teams was at all part of the process of pro-bowl balloting.

        bangkokben – Jan 26, 2016 at 10:45 AM
        They were voted as alternates. It’s that simple. The results usually come out before the penultimate game. The fans start voting quite early. The players hardly watch the game. The players/coaches may have voted with four games left in the season. Bottom line: nobody cares about the Pro-Bowl except for Dallas Cowboy fans and the state of Hawaii.

  4. Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    Kansas city cheifs are expecting to release Jamal Charles since they backup emerge to what to what they wanna do as a starter…I don’t think redskins will draft a rookie and expect him to start day 1 I think the more logic choice for the redskins is to draft a DL CB and WR…it’s gonna be vets out there that they gonna want to add until matt Jones show he can start

    • ajbus1 - Jan 28, 2016 at 1:11 PM

      Where did you hear the Chiefs were gonna let Charles go?

    • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 8:06 PM

      No way I want injury prone almost 30 years old Jamal Charles. That leg is messed up I dont trust it.

  5. Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:36 AM

    Ppl that think that p.garcon or djax leaving think again scot m. Loves those two guys he’s looking to add better depth behind him those two…like I said after p.garcon and djax who do we really have as a deep threat or a third down threat ????

    • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 8:05 PM

      They are too short for the GM’s liking. How tall are they anyways? 6 foot? I did not know they stacked sh|T that high. When Cousins gets off the mark a little bit the extra height and arm length could help wrangle in some of those erratic balls.
      I have decided keeping Jackson is a good idea but I am open for discussion with Garcon. If only we had someone like Mike Evans to throw in there with Garcon, Jackson, and Crowder than we would be looking good.

  6. Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:40 AM

    Last year scot said he wanted 11 or 12 picks he found away to get them…this year he said he wants 15 picks the more the better he clearly know something that we don’t he gonna find away to get 15 or close to it

    • firesnyder - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:16 AM

      15?? Sheesh, to accomplish that, he would have to trade down on our 1st and 2nd rounders which i don’t think would be a very good idea. A first round DE should easily be a starter.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 28, 2016 at 12:45 PM

      He was joking about 15.

      • Shonndon - Jan 28, 2016 at 1:22 PM

        Actually he said he likes 10 to 12 picks a year…he did say that, and he can start trading back in the 3rd round like he did last year, or was it the 4th round

  7. Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:44 AM

    The way scot m. Talk I think hes looking to revamp the defensive side of the ball

    • firesnyder - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:18 AM

      Look at the two remaining superbowl teams… defense wins championships!! We need to get there.

    • bangkokben - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:59 AM

      “The way scot m. Talk…”

      …he thinks Jay Gruden is an excellent coach.

      When does the Scot M is a liar talk start?

  8. Mr.moneylover - Jan 28, 2016 at 10:45 AM

    I think they need to find away to get rid of Stephen paea

    • bangkokben - Jan 28, 2016 at 12:32 PM

      With Knighton, Golston, and Kearse as free agents and Paea signing a four-year contract last year, Paea stays and one or all of the other guys make room for the new fellas. Baker, Jean-Francios, and Paea are locks to still be here next year. Hatcher is likely gone. So there will be two to four new faces on the D-line. Paea may have an Andre Roberts type year next season where he either gets better or he goes. I don’t see Roberts remaining on the team and if Paea doesn’t improve next season then he likely is gone. I suspect injuries had more to do with his ineffectiveness. He’ll be better next year. Also, Baker is in his final year and Jean-Francios is signed through 2017. So Paea has the most security of any d-linemen on the team. So even if he improves just slightly he may stay as he would count the most in dead money next year of the current d-linemen.

      • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 7:58 PM

        Big Swaggy is not going any where. They are going to resign him next year for sure. I like what Chris Baker was doing this year. He ended up being more of a force on defense than someone like Kerrigan.
        Paea was a huge disappointment and it looks like the GM missed the mark on that signing. And the Culliver signing.

  9. troylok - Jan 28, 2016 at 11:11 AM

    William Stanback, sixth round.

  10. timwillhide - Jan 28, 2016 at 2:42 PM

    I think they will Draft a guy, sign a rookie free agent, and resign Thomas

    • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 7:49 PM

      I don’t see what the big deal is about the RB position. Morris is gone. Jones can handle the load as an every down back. Jones can do it. Look at how he fixed his fumbling problem and secured the ball better throughout the year. Jones is young and hungry, he can be beast. Just give him a chance.

      1st String) Jones 2nd String) Thompson (3rd Down Back) 3rd String) Pierre Thomas 4th String) Late Round Draft Pick

      • timwillhide - Jan 29, 2016 at 1:01 AM

        Thompson got injured again I think he will be gone. It will be Jonenes and Thomas. They will Draft a 3rd down back and sign a rookie free agent

        • rtcwon - Jan 29, 2016 at 2:49 AM

          Thompson is too cheap not to tender and see what role he earns. They are high enough on Jones to roll with him & best of Thomas, Thompson, Redd, Brown. But the article said Thomas thinks he can get more elsewhere. I think there is value at RB everywhere so position with least of my concerns.

  11. JOHNNY B - Jan 28, 2016 at 4:48 PM

    Well I think that they will let Alf test the open market and see if he can get a bigger deal than the Redskins will want to offer. He out preformed his contract his first 3 years we do owe him at least one more year to try to get it together. If not cut him or trade him. I agree that Redd is odd man out but the way they liked Thomas I see him in for 1 more year.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 28, 2016 at 6:30 PM

      Morris is going to be a free agent. He can’t but cut or traded.

      • JOHNNY B - Jan 28, 2016 at 8:32 PM

        I guess I explained it wrong give him a 1 year deal to see if he can do it. If not trade him

        • Rich Tandler - Jan 29, 2016 at 7:32 AM

          You’re assuming he’d take a one-year deal.I’d be very surprised if he does.

  12. Bigkabob - Jan 28, 2016 at 4:55 PM

    I think losing Morris is a mistake. Part of his production is the blocking and part is the play calling. Don’t forget that the redskins were behind in many games early so Morris was not used. We have not schematically done well with the blocking for any running back. Also injuries have played that part. I say the redskins keep him and build the left guard and center positions either through the draft or free agency. Stephen Davis left and was productive in Carolina before his njuries kicked in. Morris is young strong does not fumble and with the stability in the line and consistency on offense, he will return to form.

    • goback2rfk - Jan 28, 2016 at 7:53 PM

      He will return to form on another team. Morris has been a disappointment since 2012. Its time for a change. It will be better for him and every party. Morris is not a scrub, he is just a peg tying to fit in a round hole or whatever. Like Rg3 he does’nt match what we are trying to do. He is going to make a great 2nd string back for someone.

  13. Theo brooks - Jan 29, 2016 at 7:34 AM

    Leave the backfield alone. AM is an establish and proven runner. Build a bigger and better o line with the picks, as well as, blocking tight ends. Archives

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