Washington Redskins Training Camp Battles: Running Backs

Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE

Only one month remains until training camp (!) which means we can look forward and preview the positional battles that will take place throughout the summer. First up is running backs:

Running Backs on Redskins 90-man roster: Alfred Morris, Roy Helu, Jr., Evan Royster, Chris Thompson, Jawan Jamison, Tristan Davis, Keiland Williams, Darrel Young, Eric Kettani.

Saying the Redskins backfield is crowded coming into training camp is an understatement to say the least, but once the season starts that number will likely dwindle further than many anticipate. Keep in mind the Redskins could keep five safeties and four tight ends due to uncertainty at those positions.

Mike Shanahan gets a bad rap for his "Shanahanigans," a title associated with being fickle about which running back will be his bell cow. There's no denying his history of being choosy, although, when he finds a back he's happy with, he sticks with him. Alfred Morris is certainly someone Shanahan is content with, as he carried the ball over 300 times in 2012 and should see a similar workload in 2013. As of now, I can't envision a scenario aside from injury that would discontinue this trend, but I suppose stranger things have happened. But Morris has proved reliable, and because he's done nothing to dispel his coaches' faith in him so far, there aren't many reasons for them to carry more than three running backs and one fullback, especially with the extra spaces needed for positions like safety and tight end.

That essentially leaves two spots that seven more backs are vying for. Barring injury, Darrel Young is a lock to remain at fullback and that takes Eric Kettani and Dorson Boyce out of the equation. The coaching staff knows what they have in Tristan Davis and Keiland Williams, who aren't likely anything more than camp bodies.

Roy Helu, Jr. is an early front runner to take third-down duties, as early reports indicate he is returning to the form he had prior to his 2012 foot injury. Keep in mind that it's not just Helu's ability to catch passes that will help his cause, but also his ability in pass protection. People tend to forget that Helu was one of the better pass-protectors in 2011. Per Pro Football Focus, Helu stayed in to pass block on 78 pass attempts in his last healthy season and gave up a total of two pressures, a frequency that only Michael Turner and Fred Jackson bested that season. If Helu continues to demonstrate his ability in this area, it will undoubtedly go a long way in securing his roster spot.

Still, that doesn't mean he'll lock it down, as rookies Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison will also have every chance to prove themselves this summer.

Thomspon's biggest obstacle, aside from health, is that he is practice-squad eligible. That also goes for Jamison, who was also a late-round pick. Unless they pull an Alfred Morris and jump out on tape this preseason, the practice squad is the likely destination for at least one of them.

For my money, and take it as what you will, one of these late-round picks will make the final 53 and beat out Evan Royster, who is amid the biggest roster battle in his career thus far. Royster is no longer practice squad eligible, and unless the third-year back shows something he hasn't this summer, he will be looking for a new team. As of now, Royster can offer a deeper understanding of the offense, but it's not like he could boast that advantage for long. A strong camp by either Thompson or Jamison will probably mark the end of Royster's days in D.C.

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