RICHMOND | Of all the position battles at Redskins training camp this year, running back is probably the most heated. Alfred Morris is the incumbent favorite after two straight seasons of 1,200 or more rushing yards.
But the talent lining up behind him cannot be ignored, and with the deadline for the 53-man roster only a month away coach Jay Gruden and his staff may have too much of a good thing on their hands.
"It's going great," said Morris. "I honestly love competition, even my job is not solidified. You may think it is, but you never know in this business. So I'm always working to keep my job, always working to get better. The competition, even between the rest of us is amazing. We're all getting better, we're all learning."
Roy Helu Jr. may also have a roster spot locked up and is widely considered to be next in line after Morris. He has provided solid running for the Redskins since being drafted out of Nebraska in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. He served as a backup for Morris in 2013 rushing for 274 yards on 62 attempts.
Even though he is a solid back who has been with the team for three years, there are no guarantees in a new system.
"It's a new offense for us so it's a lot," said Morris. "Even more has been put on our plate to know this stuff. We've been doing a great job of learning it, going out there and executing it and helping each other out. Even though we're competing against each other we've done a great job of being available to each other. When someone has a question it's not like we just turn our back to him, we always answer. Even I have questions. I don't know it all."
Chris Thompson had a disheartening 2013 season because of injury and was considered a long shot to make the roster again this year, but once camp started he began making noise. The Florida State product, who broke two vertebrae as a junior, tore the ACL in his left knee as a senior and then underwent left shoulder surgery last October, has showed speed and power out of the backfield, exhibiting exactly how effective of a runner he can be when healthy.
"Every day, I'm just thankful to be out here," said Thompson. "I haven't played a full season in a couple years now, and that's pretty frustrating, but hopefully I can stay pretty healthy and just give it my all this year."
Evan Royster returns to take on training camp with the Redskins and once again faces an uphill battle against his competition. The Chantilly native is trying to avoid the fate he suffered in 2011 when he was cut from the final roster and signed to the practice squad.
Royster, who had just two carries last season, has proved himself capable when given a chance, but the talent pool in the organization has always outshone him.
"We're hoping that somebody emerges as that person," Gruden said. "It's not easy. It's a very difficult position to play — not only to be a good pass protector for the quarterback but also to get out into screens and then get out and work your man-to-man routes on the linebackers and find zones. If you haven't done that a lot, it takes some time, and that's why we're out here."
Lache Seastrunk was drafted in the sixth round by the Redskins in May, reuniting him with his former Baylor teammate Robert Griffin III. He has plenty of speed and quickness, but it will be difficult to find a spot on a roster crowded with experience.
He knows it will be tough to make the final roster, but feels good about his chances and about being with the organization.
"Everybody's got to help everybody," Seastrunk said. "I feel kind of good man. I feel comfortable, I feel great, I finally feel at home."
Silas Redd was supposed to be the runt of this running back litter. After going undrafted in May, the Redskins picked him up as a free agent out of Southern California. In the face of all predictions Redd has been surprising plenty of people with how he has performed in camp so far.
"You can't count the reps, you've got to make the reps count," said Redd after Wednesday morning's practice. "Being a free agent rookie, I know what my reps are going to look like, but that's OK because I'm going to make the best of what I get. I feel great, you just can never be satisfied. You've got to keep pushing and keep grinding and I promise you that's what I'm going to do."
The good news is that the Redskins have a lot to choose from at the running back position. The bad news is that they can't keep them all. There's no room on a 53-man roster for six running backs, as much as Gruden and his staff may wish there was.
At this point though, they're not ruling anyone out.
"I think we have some guys who can compete," Gruden said. "Chris Thompson is doing a good job. Silas Redd's battling for it. Evan's doing a good job, and obviously our draft pick [Seastrunk] has a ways to go, but he's got a chance because he can run."
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