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Need to Know: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back

Mar 21, 2016, 5:53 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Monday, March 21, 38 days before the NFL Draft.

Offseason thoughts: Redskins seem confident in Matt Jones as the No. 1 back

—There seems to be a lot of confidence in Matt Jones to be the replacement for Morris as the “lead dog” running back. Scot McCloughan allowed the top backs like Matt Forte and Lamar Miller (and their high price tags) to fly off of the board early and he has yet to do any serious bargain hunting among the ones who are left. They aren’t going to hand Jones the job but Jay Gruden and McCloughan believe that he can earn. That doesn’t mean that if a running back is the best player available in the first two rounds that McCloughan won’t pull the trigger. But for right now it looks like a later-round pick and/or a veteran picked up just before or just after the draft will provide the competition.

—Something that Chris Cooley said about a departing Redskin didn’t get the attention that what he said about Robert Griffin III got. However, what he said about Alfred Morris on ESPN 980 was pretty harsh as well. “He played in 2015 so hesitant, so tentatively, and without confidence and without the burst he had in the past . . . that you had to say ‘he’s not our guy’” said the former tight end. This jibes with the observations of many, including me. Morris just didn’t have the ability to make the first tackler miss and without that he is a very ordinary running back.

—Yesterday I wrote about the key Redskins who will be free agents in 2017 and WR Pierre Garçon was one of them. It is still possible that he could sign an extension sometime before the season starts, a move that could reduce his cap number this year and keep him in the building for 2017 and possibly 2018. They could create some cap room by reducing his $10.2 million charge in the process although as noted in the same post they don’t seem very anxious. It’s really a question of if they want to ensure that he will be around and if he wants to stay.

—They could also keep DeSean Jackson, also a free agent in 2017, beyond this season but I don’t see a contract being done prior to next year. If Jackson, who turns 30 late in the season, becomes more serious about preparing for the grind of 16 games they might consider keeping him around. Receivers who remain effective into their 30’s are the ones who spend their offseasons preparing. If we see a repeat of last year, with Jackson skipping OTAs and then missing a big chunk of training camp and all of the preseason games with a mild shoulder injury, the interest in bringing him back will be low.


—The Redskins last played a game 71 days ago. It will be about 174 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 28; 2016 NFL draft 38; Redskins training camp starts 129

In case you missed it

  1. troylok - Mar 21, 2016 at 6:13 AM

    Good points, RIch, as usual. I have to say that McGloughin’s lack of activity at signing a free agent running back might look like he has confidence in Matt Jones, but I think the market for quality running backs was a little thin and the guys available were overvalued. I am pretty sure the Redskins will draft at least one running back. If they are still not completely happy with what they have Pierre Thomas is still available and most likely will be late in the offseason. Jones is a talented player but there is no way they will look for him to shoulder all of the carries in 2016. Also, don’t forget about Silas Redd. I think he’s a guy with unexplored potential.

  2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 21, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    “Still 38 days until the draft!!??” he whined.

  3. skinsgame - Mar 21, 2016 at 7:40 AM

    Between being injured and fumbling, Jones couldn’t beat out Alfred Morris, an expiring contract did that. Jones has a long way to go if he is to be the starting RB and the situation in the backfield is worrisome right now with Morris and Young gone. It isn’t that those two were playing “lights out”, it’s that they’re being replaced by players that couldn’t beat them out last year.

    • sidepull - Mar 21, 2016 at 8:21 AM

      I personally am going to get sick if I have to watch Alf doing his home run swing in a Cowpukes uniform in the Redskins end-zone.

      • greed - Mar 21, 2016 at 8:43 AM

        agreed ! I think the alf-jones combo was good when alf got bulk of carries and jones relieved him

    • Skulb - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:50 AM

      On the other hand Young and Morris weren’t exactly fits of Gruden’s system, considering that he prefers power running rather than zone and apparently doesn’t understand what fullbacks are for. Might as well replace them with someone the team is prepared to use.

      • John - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:38 PM

        How many teams use fullbacks to any great degree? Both Grudrn and Callahan are anti-fullback in terms of scheme. I remember another Skins coach who rarely used a fullback and when he did it was in short yardage. He felt using 2 tight ends, one down and another as an H Back (a bigger, better blocker and better receiver than most fullbacks). Now, who was that? I think he coached the team during the 80s? Oh yeah, that’s right Joe Gibbs!

        Sorry but in Alfs case it was not the scheme, it as Alf. The holes were there. He just did not run with authority.

        • Trey Gregory - Mar 22, 2016 at 2:29 AM

          Fullback has been on of my favorite positions since I was very young. I lived in the Tampa area and loved watching Mike Alstott play. Loved fullbacks ever since. Also, Redskins fans, myself included, loved Young. So it sucked to see him on the sidelines and eventually let go. But that doesn’t mean it was the wrong move.

          Fullbacks are being phased out. Like John said, a lot of guys prefer to use/carry an extra TE. A TE who can block, on the line or as a fullback, as well as be a mismatch in the passing game. There’s just more value there. It’s a passing league now so it’s a natural shift. Has nothing to do with Gruden disliking someone or not knowing how to use a player. There’s a reason not many teams Carey a fullback anymore. I can only think of 5, including the Redskins, who used a fullback last year on offense. I’m sure some other “fullbacks” we’re special teamers. There’s probably more teams who used them, but fullbacks are undeniably being phased out.

        • Skulb - Mar 23, 2016 at 12:03 AM

          No I get that and I don’t even mind as long as there is stability so we don’t have to overhaul the entire squad every three years. If you go with a FB zone blocking scheme then stick with that, and obviously with coaches who run that system. My only problem with Gruden is that hiring meant we had to do this overhaul now. Fortunately we should be more or less done with that after his OS and then hopefully we can have some years of consistency. My nightmare is a flop of a season and Gruden being fired after 16 for a guy who runs fullbacks and zone blocking again. That would just be so Snyder.

        • Trey Gregory - Mar 23, 2016 at 1:18 AM

          That would be awful. Stability is really underrated in some fan’s minds. And you’re right, that would be SO Snyder.

    • Trey Gregory - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:39 PM

      It was the guy’s rookie season. It sounds like you’re not leaving him any room to improve. As if all players are the exact same guy they were their rookie season. He could get much better in year two.

      Jones was drafted in the 3rd for potential. Not because he was a finished product. He did some things poorly, but they’re all correctable. Run lower, better ball security, and more experience should lead him to hitting holes better or staying patient and not bouncing outside on plays where he should stay inside. We all need to have a little faith that the choaching staff can do their jobs and that Jones has the desire to get better. If that’s the case, he can be a very good player.

      • skinsgame - Mar 21, 2016 at 9:31 PM


  4. kenlinkins - Mar 21, 2016 at 9:31 AM

    Morris was the biggest mystery in 2015. What happened to the forward lean, the lowering of the shoulder, the quick cut into a hole? Morris seemed lost, almost shy about running the ball. If I didn’t know better I would say he had no heart! Jones on the other hand ran full speed ahead. At times he looked like a rookie and fumbled liked a rookie but he always was going full tilt boogie. In the NFL you “Fire with Enthusiasm or are Fired with Enthusiasm”! IMO the Redskins do not yet have a “Work Horse” RB or even a good One – Two punch combo that can act like a work horse RB. There are a few good RB’s in the draft but after the kids from Ohio State and Alabama there are no “plug and play” types. IMO most have very big holes in their game and are risky if taken too high in the draft. I hope the GM has his eyes on a later round pick that is under valued at RB. There is always a RB at some school that was misused or in the wrong system that turns into a pretty good find (I just do not see him yet, which is a good sign). Trying to be a power running team without a true power RB is never a good idea!

    • ET - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:07 PM

      I don’t Gruden’s all that interested in a true workhorse back. He’s interested in a stable of decent backs that can sub in and out according to distance and down. And Gruden’s clearly more interested in RBs who can catch out of the backfield. Even without his issues last season, Morris may’ve been a marked man on this roster because of his (relative) lack of pass-catching ability. And even if Jones or another back really shines, I doubt he gets the kind of carries Morris did in his heyday.

      I’d be fairly surprised if the Skins ever take an RB earlier than the 3rd under Gruden, unless they stockpile an extra high pick.

  5. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 21, 2016 at 9:52 AM

    “I preach and preach and preach and I’ll never change: you build through the draft,” he said.

    in preacher Scott McGlue we trust.

  6. Anthony Brown - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:07 AM

    If they think Matt Jones is the answer,they are making a mistake. You can’t trust RB who fumbles like he does. They need draft another RB in the upcoming draft.

    • Rich Tandler - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:13 AM

      So, ball security can’t be taught? Sounds a lot like a year ago when people were saying that Cousins is an always would be a turnover machine.

      Coaches coach, players learn.

    • Mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:44 AM

      Alfred morris had a fumble problem in his first year its normal from a NFL standards because college players not use to NFL contact…matt Jones got AP talent but got one problem he need to fix and he will be straight…its been years since the redskins had a running back that can score 60 or 70 yard TD…Alfred morris problem was he lost weight when he shouldn’t have and tryna be a home run running back when he made his money on being big,physical and breaking tackles… They use to have to gang tackle Alfred morris in his first year

      • kenlinkins - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:20 PM

        I didn’t know that Morris dropped weight, but that would make a ton of sense to me and explain most of the results I saw in 2014 / 2015. If true, it was a big mistake and I would ask who suggested it to him? No matter how much you drill ball security to rookie RB’s, most are shocked at how easy it is for the ball to hit the ground in year one. Most RB’s will tell you that when they were rookies they under estimated how well NFL defensive players could target the football when making a tackle. The good news is that most make ball security a priority in year two after seeing their playing time reduced and having been reminded by coach’s every 2 minutes in training camp. IMO Jones will over come his fumbling concerns just like Morris did after his rookie year. They learn when to get on the ground and when they are being held up and targeted.

    • thirdistheworrd - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:19 PM

      I totally agree, a player who fumbles that much just can’t ever learn, or be a starting NFL tailback– just look at Adrian Peterson, what a total waste of a draft pick.

      • renhoekk2 - Mar 21, 2016 at 3:42 PM

        Peterson rushed for 1300 yds, 12TD and 5.6yc in 9 starts his rookie year . He didn’t have to stop fumbling to become a good running back. Fumbling is the least of Morris’s shortcomings.

  7. Mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:32 AM

    Chris Cooley just bitter about the redskins not resigning him so he’s taking it out on former players and some current players have said he couldn’t play he just wanted to be in the locker room to get more stories and Chris Cooley is showing that….Chris Cooley was the main one on rg3 bandwagon when he had success but soon when the guy have trouble he beat guy while he’s already down…that’s why orackpo wanna fight Chris Cooley not only for what he did to rg3 but saying the things he said about him as well….like Niles Paul said he can’t smile in ppl face then talk shyt about them behind they back…. I liked the fact that ricky jean Francois and Chris Cooley got in a heated discussion about this…Chris Cooley shouldn’t even be covering the team if he’s just gonna keep bashing redskins players he should cover cowboys team since he bashing redskins players

    • bangkokben - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:57 AM

      Every player who steps away from the game to become an analyst has to say what is on his mind and give his point of view. Or they won’t be a player or an analyst. When you have a microphone and it is broadcasted across the DMV and internet, that is NOT talking behind someone’s back. Ryan Clark is a punk for saying the same things that Cooley says but then says that Cooley has not no right to say them because when Clark played with him, Cooley was an immature player that didn’t put in the time to be great. Clark’s analysis is akin to his last season here, woefully lacking.

      • Mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:06 AM

        Current and former players mad because he breaking locker room code…Ricky jean Francois said he didn’t see or hear players bashing rg3… Its like Chris Cooley looking for attention or looking for a headline that’s not true

        • bangkokben - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:48 AM

          There may be some of that but from one person listening to it as it came down, it didn’t sound that way. Griffin was finally gone and Cooley was asked for his take on all things Robert by his radio partners. He gave it and it did not sound like he was ‘bashing’ Robert. There was some stuff that was harsh and there was some stuff that was kind. It sounded fair but at the same time anyone listening knew it sounded like the beginning of an “S” storm.

    • John - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:35 PM

      Cooley is calling it as he sees it. He like anyone else has the freedom of speech and a right to his opinions. If you don’t like what he is saying, you can change the station when he’s on. He played ball in the NFL for the Skins, as pretty good and now is in radio and what he says is out there for everyone to hear. Not sure if you checked out his film breakdowns online but he was spot on on Alf and RG3. Its not unusual to be called out if you under perform week in and week out. Its refreshing.

    • Trey Gregory - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:50 PM

      I don’t blame Ryan Clark or Chris Cooley for their words. They’re trying to start new-ish careers in broadcasting/journalism. That’s a tough industry (I know, I’m in it). It’s hard to get jobs and most pay like garbage. Cooley and Clark got their jobs because they were players. They got the job for that inside information/analysis. I’ll bet Cooley and Clark don’t get paid as much as you might think and now they’re grinding it out to try and get a decent paycheck again. That only happens for them if they use their contacts, experience, and anecdotes to get the edge on people without those things. These guys are often just sharing an opinion. Even if they state it forcibly, it’s just an opinion. Cooley’s comments about RG3 were less opinion but no reasonable person should expect that every single player in that locker room felt the exact same about RG3. I’m sure some guys didn’t like him and some did. Francois liked RG3, Cooley didn’t. It happens.

  8. Mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2016 at 10:56 AM

    Last year rookies made more of a impact then last year free agents that’s why we only sign three new faces scot m. Gonna build some thing special that’s gonna last for years…you know whose really happy scot m. Here???? Scott Campbell because now he don’t gotta worry about Bruce Allen or somebody like mike shanahan going over top of him making draft changes he now feel like he can do his job and that’s why scot m. Didn’t fire the guy….Scott Campbell had Aaron Donald as the top DE in the draft the year he was drafted but the rams got him and when ppl started questioning Scott Campbell draft IQ he said I wish I could show you witch players I rank high on my draft board

  9. Mr.moneylover - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:01 AM

    I want redskins to draft RB Keith Marshall from Georgia yea he came from the same college as Todd gurley and he was the guy who stepped up for Todd Hurley when he tore his ACL…game tape show he can be a game changer

  10. smotion55 - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:05 AM

    Alf fumbled in his 1st year also, The running back coach has stated they are teaching Jones to run lower and tuck the ball to his forearm and body and showed us that on Redskins Nation last week, and stated he has made some progress with this. Most coaches also say the 2nd year is when they see the biggest jump in progress with players. I would still do like Rich says and draft 1 later on in the draft . If Elliott is there at 21 I might have to take him , he would mask the interior line problems for sure ,I just can’t see him still there .
    As for Garcon and Jackson, wait and see, I would extend Garcon 2 years at the end of the year is production is there but Jackson I just don’t Know. The draft might tell us how they feel on this matter. If GM trades back > I would consider taking 2 receivers in the middle rounds at least but would consider 1 in the 2nd round.
    I would love to be in there draft room and watch this unfold and see his board. To watch GM and his scouts and there whole years worth of work come down to 3 days. ‘ Top 3 ‘ On My Dream On Bucket List For Sure..

  11. bangkokben - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:13 PM

    Comparing Alf’s fumble problem to Jones is like comparing a guy who drinks on Sunday to a guy who’s at the bar every night. Sure, they both drink. Alf’s first year wasn’t even close to Jones. He fumbled four times in 335 carries or one in every 84 carries. Meanwhile, Jones fumbled five times in 144 carries. Or once every 29 carries. If he is the bell cow and doesn’t fix this problem that is once a game. In addition the Redskins lost four of the five fumbles Jones had last year while they three of four Morris committed his rookie season. When you figure how often the team lost the ball while the back rushed the ball, you get the Redskins losing the ball every 36 carries by Jones and losing it once every 112 carries during Morris’ rookie year.

    This isn’t an argument for Morris or to say that Jones can’t fix his problems. Instead, it is to show how much more work Jones has ahead of him. Cutting his fumbles in half next year seems like a reasonable goal but Jones is likely to also carry twice the load.

    • ET - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:45 PM

      A little sobering, but the rate of fumbles per carry is absolutely relevant. I don’t think Jones will get close to Alfred’s carry numbers, though, even under a best-case scenario. That doesn’t make the problem disappear—just sayin’.

      • Trey Gregory - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:55 PM

        How is fumbles per carry irrelevant? It’s very relevant if you want to truly understand the numbers and not gloss over them.

        Oh, player A only fumbled once and player B also only fumbled once so they’re the same thing! Well, player A only had two carries, so he fumbled 50% of the time and player B had 100 carries so he fumbled 1% of the time. See how that’s relevant?

        • ET - Mar 21, 2016 at 2:35 PM

          Uh, I said relevant. We agree.

        • Trey Gregory - Mar 21, 2016 at 3:02 PM

          You absolutely did. I apologize, misread what you said. Can I pretend I was just backing up your point?

        • ET - Mar 21, 2016 at 4:10 PM

          Sure thing :)

  12. wildbill1952 - Mar 21, 2016 at 12:26 PM

    Nothing wrong with the Matt Jones selection, he is a good running back. But if they had instead gone with La’El Collins at pick 95 instead of Matt Jones, the running game would have been better off. And Morris would have looked a lot better. According to Football Outsiders, Redskin running backs were “stuffed” (where the running back was tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage) a whopping 22% of all running plays. I suppose you can blame some of that on running backs choosing the wrong hole or falling down, but that stat typically lies with a poor run-blocking offensive line, or someone telegraphing the play, or poor play-calling where the defense knows what is coming. But it’s usually not the fault of the running back.

    Blaming Morris for the problems with the running game is like blaming your radio for a flat tire. The OL is better than it was, especially at pass protection, but run-blocking and pass protection are two different things. The Skins still have a long way to go to be considered a good run-blocking team. At best, they’re a little below average.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Mar 21, 2016 at 1:53 PM

      We’d already drafted a guard with the fifth round pick overall. And Lauvao wasn’t hurt at the time. How could you spend a third round pick on Collins under the circumstances?

      The whole thing was a circus, and the Cowboys were the big beneficiary.

      • Trey Gregory - Mar 21, 2016 at 2:38 PM

        Not only that, but taking La’el Collins in the 3rd would have been a gross overdraft. He was a first round talent but there’s a reason he went undrafted. Like, he said he wouldn’t sign with a team if they drafted him.

        I could have completely understood taking a 7th round flier on him to call his bluff. But a 3rd round pick on a guy who went undrafted? You could have gone for drafting Tyler Lockett in the 3rd and Jeremy Langford in the 4th. Or even keeping the trade back and still getting Langford

        • John - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:04 PM

          The guy was a person of interest in a criminal investigation, in and around the draft, hence his stock went down. Would you have wasted a 2, 3 or 4 on a guy who might have been behind bars, shortly after drafting him? Once Collins played, he was pretty solid at guard.

    • John - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:21 PM

      Sure, there were times when the backs were caught behind the line. There were plenty of instances where the backs were tripped up by defenders for minimal gains (1st Giants game). In the Tampa game both backs were useless. They had opportunities for big gains but blew it. I encourage you to look at the screen shots of the Cooley film breakdown of that game. Well blocked up front with double teams and Carrier setting the edge and Alf and Matt were screwing around. Alf looked many times like he forgot how to run. If the play is designed to go one way and there is a hole there, plant and go! In a contract year, you think he would have killed it.

  13. Robert G - Mar 21, 2016 at 3:55 PM

    I read some of these and just kinda shake my head. You make a couple good points. But let’s face it their run game sucked it’s not a mystery from a defensive stand point. Topped with the fact that the O-line can’t pull. Watch 10 min of skins run tape and you’ll see line is none factor. Run sceme horrible you can see what’s changed tape don’t lie!!! Morris will sign with Dallas and be a top 10 back again and everyone will scratch their heads. It’s not a mystery

    • John - Mar 22, 2016 at 10:28 AM

      Yeah? They pulled fine early on, when Lavau was healthy. Long is to slow. On the first 3 plays against Carolina, Carrier blocked the wrong guy. Long wiffed against those backers. In other instances, the blocks were there but Morris looked lost, more often than not. If the play is designed to go left and things are well blocked and there are 2 gaping holes to run through, take the one as designed and go! Problem was All would go left, then turn right and back left, leaving the line hanging and in the process knock a guy off his block. Seriously, the line had chemistry issues but when the holes were there, Alf just was not getting the job done!

    • John - Mar 22, 2016 at 1:54 PM

      Morris’s numbers have dropped off steadily since 2012. Gruden used Shanahan’s running scheme in 2014. It comes down to the blockers and runners getting the job done.

  14. renhoekk2 - Mar 21, 2016 at 3:58 PM

    Apparently the decision makers at Redskins Park have the same opinion of Morris and Griffin’s play because they both were let go. If Cooley was wrong about either of them they would be back with the team. Morris and Griffin were the darlings of the team in 2012, but that was 4 years ago and the NFL is the ultimate what have you done lately employer. Fans never like to see their favorite players get let go, but unless they are HOF type players it happens to everyone sooner or later, and even they can get cut. P Manning for example.

    • John - Mar 22, 2016 at 10:12 AM

      In the NFL, players get contracts with a certain amount of money garunteed but there is no garuntee that the player will be around long enough to collect. In the case of Robert he was a one year phenom thanks to the system that Shanahan put together to suit his abilities. As soon as Robert refused to run the 50s, he dug his own grave here. Regarding Alf, last season he was totally indecisive, ran with no authority and got let go. Nice guy, fan favorite, but that and a dime will get you a cup of coffee in the NFL.

  15. robert herrera - Mar 21, 2016 at 7:49 PM

    As a redskin fan we need another running back. In this draft there are plenty.

  16. John - Mar 21, 2016 at 11:12 PM

    The guy was a person of interest in a criminal investigation, in and around the draft, hence his stock went down. Would you have wasted a 2, 3 or 4 on a guy who might have been behind bars, shortly after drafting him? Once Collins played, he was pretty solid at guard. Archives

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