Washington Redskins: Position Breakdown and Depth Chart Analysis at Running Back
In a league in which the workhorse running back is all but extinct, Washington has one such back in Alfred Morris. Washington was first in rushing offense in 2012 and fifth last season. During that time span, Morris accounted for over 60 percent of the team's rushing offense.
Considering the short shelf life that running backs have, you'd think that the 'Skins would have a better cast of backs behind him.
Roy Helu, Lache Seastrunk, Chris Thompson, Evan Royster and Silas Redd are the backs Washington has behind its bell cow.
Of these five players, only two—Royster and Helu—have an NFL carry to their name. As a group with injury concerns as well, how will the depth chart shake out once the season commences?
Let's find out. Here is the breakdown of Washington's depth chart at running back.
6. Silas Redd
An undrafted free agent out of USC, Silas Redd seems destined to be a practice-squad player for the Redskins.
On a roster already filled with injury-prone running backs, is there really room for a player like Redd, who was beset by injuries? After a successful start to his career at Penn State, Redd was marred by injury in his final two seasons at USC.
Not an ideal candidate to return kicks, NFL.com indicates that he ran a 4.70 in the 40-yard dash. There's little incentive for Washington to keep Redd on its active roster.
5. Evan Royster
Considering that Washington carried four running backs on its roster last season—five if you include Darrel Young—Evan Royster can't like his place on this depth chart.
A non-factor on special teams who lacks the requisite receiving skills to complement Morris, Royster offers little outside of insurance in the case of injury.
Fortunately for him, three of the four running backs he's behind on the depth chart (Helu, Thompson and Seastrunk) have durability concerns.
While this is likely to keep Royster on the roster going into the final cuts before the regular season, barring an actual injury to any of the aforementioned backs, Royster's time in Washington is all but over.
4. Chris Thompson
Limited by injury, the enticing speed that got Chris Thompson drafted in the first place was never put on display during his rookie season.
Health is a perpetually underlying question with Thompson. Even with the praise that his talent elicits, his lack of durability seems to always garner the spotlight.
Case in point, the comments head coach Jay Gruden made to Mike Jones of The Washington Post about Thompson:
I remember him from at Florida State. I actually graded him coming out, and he was one of the most exciting backs, I thought. But he had a couple of injury issues at Florida State and he’s a guy who has to stay healthy and do his best to get on the field so we can see what he can do. Interesting guy. He’s very, very exciting when he gets the ball in his hands, but it’s hard to get the ball in his hands when he’s not out there.
Judging from how Jones reports he was utilized during OTAs, Thompson will be getting the ball in his hands on special teams.
Despite underwhelming numbers in his short stint as a return man in 2013, Thompson will get a crack at being the team's return man on punts and kickoffs next season.
Considering that Niles Paul and Santana Moss were its leading returners a season ago, Washington could significantly improve its return unit if Thompson can translate his strong 2013 preseason performance to the upcoming regular season.
3. Lache Seastrunk
An undersized scatback with durability questions surrounding him, Lache Seastrunk can attribute his sixth-round selection to the success Gruden had with a similarly sized player, Giovani Bernard.
Third-down back Roy Helu is set to enter free agency after the 2014 campaign and, in all likelihood, Seastrunk is being groomed to replace him.
A big-play threat adept at making defenders miss, Seastrunk has some holes in his game he'll need to fill if this is to take place.
Even though Seastrunk told ESPN.com's John Keim "I don't have any weaknesses," catching the ball and pass protection seem to stand out.
At Baylor, Seastrunk only caught nine passes. Then there's what Gruden relayed to Keim about Seastrunk. "The major reach for him would be picking up blitzes and running routes out of the backfield,” he said.
With such flaws in his game, injury could be Seastrunk's lone ticket to garnering playing time on offense.
A threat to score whenever he touches the football, returning kicks could be the extent of his contributions as a rookie.
2. Roy Helu
A solid but unspectacular change-of-pace back to Morris in 2013, Roy Helu has to be the favorite to land the backup job.
Add in Helu's receiving prowess—he had 31 receptions last season and a career-high 49 in 2011—and he should also be the leading candidate to usurp Morris on third downs.
The feature that keeps this competition open, though, is Helu's lack of explosiveness. He has never had a rush longer than 28 yards and his career-long reception of 47 yards came in 2011.
Factor in Helu's questionable durability, and the opportunity could arise for upstart backs Seastrunk and Thompson to seize the backup job.
1. Alfred Morris
The latest running back gem to be snagged in the latter stages of the NFL draft by Mike Shanahan, Alfred Morris might be one of the few Redskins sad to see his departure this offseason.
After amassing 20 touchdowns and 2,888 rushing yards under his direction, there certainly is a good reason for that.
With Gruden now at the helm, all signs point to a reduced role for Morris in the offense.
In light of the team's acquisitions of Andre Roberts and Desean Jackson, it's easy to envision a scenario in which Morris' carry totals mirror those of his 2013 season rather than those of his breakout rookie campaign.
An owner of just 20 career receptions, Morris' lack of receiving prowess only further empowers Gruden to make him a two-down back.
While Morris did express to ESPN.com's John Keim that he can become a better receiver, stating that "I can catch the ball," comments Gruden made to Keim about Morris' hands make it unlikely that he alone will be tasked with the third-down job.
"His hands aren't natural," Gruden said.
Similar to BenJarvus Green-Ellis in this respect, Morris' total touches on the season should come in around 275 as the team further emphasizes the passing game.
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