Matt Jones arrived at organized team activities this spring more confident than the rookie running back who shared carries with Alfred Morris last season. Jones showed flashes of success in 2015, but concerns about ball security clouded the positive things he was able to accomplish.
At times, Jones said he felt like he was second-guessing or putting too much pressure on himself to bounce back with a strong performance after he fumbled.
With Morris now on the Dallas Cowboys, the starting job is in Jones’ hands and he’s worked hard to improve his ball security skills and take a leap forward as the team’s lead back. Outside of that, there are still a lot of unknowns at the position heading into training camp.
Roster locks: Jones, Chris Thompson
Likely: Keith Marshall
On the bubble: Mack Brown, Robert Kelley, Kelsey Young
What to expect: The Redskins could add a veteran running back to compete in training camp with the young running back group. Thompson, 25, is the most experienced of the group with 19 career games played. Brown spent last season on the practice squad, Marshall is entering his rookie season after being drafted in the seventh round and Kelley and Young are undrafted free agents.
The Redskins coaches have vowed that Jones has improved his ball security skills, but training camp will be a more indicative test now that contact is allowed, which it is not during OTAs. The second-year running back averaged 3.4 yards per carry last season and has put an emphasis on improving his game between the tackles and squaring his big body against defenders.
Thompson had a breakout season as the team’s third-down back and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. He also caught 35 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns and has value as a kick returner. He missed three of the last four games with a torn labrum in his left shoulder and had surgery in the offseason, but will be ready for training camp.
How the Redskins fill the third running back position is less certain. The team likes Marshall’s speed — he ran a combine-best 4.31 40-yard dash and could be a good compliment to Jones. An ACL tear kept him out for almost two years at Georgia and he was limited in OTAs with a hamstring strain. so it will be interesting to see how he responds presuming he stays healthy in camp.
Brown and Kelley also ran well in the spring, particularly toward the end of mandatory minicamp, and are expected to challenge for a spot on the roster. Of course, everything changes once the pads go on in camp and there will be strong competition amongst an inexperienced group that is looking to improve a running game that was inconsistent and ranked 20th in 2015.