This is the second in a series previewing the 2014 Redskins by position. This week, we look at the Redskins situation at running back.
Alfred Morris is undoubtedly a top 10 RB in the NFL. Some say, including myself, that he is a top 5 RB. The 1613 yards Morris ran for in his amazing rookie season would have been good enough for a Rookie of the Year award in almost any season. Having to compete against the prolific rookie seasons of Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck kept Morris from that award. Morris followed up his record-breaking rookie season by being one of the Redskins few bright spots in a very disappointing season.
Alfred Morris is the unquestioned starter for the Redskins in 2014. The only question is how much Morris will be used in the passing game. Morris showed in the 2014 Pro Bowl that he can be effective catching the football. With new Head Coach, Jay Gruden, bringing in a new offense with an emphasis on getting the football out quickly, expect Morris to be a key check-down target for Robert Griffin III on 1st and 2nd downs as the Redskins seek a balanced offense.
Roy Helu Jr. was the Redskins 3rd down back and back-up to Alfred Morris in 2013. Helu was mostly effective rushing for 274 yards with 4 TDs. His 31 receptions was 4th on the team in a bad season for Redskins pass catchers. Helu will once again be the 3rd down RB for the Redskins in 2014. His superior pass blocking skills will make that a no-brainer for Gruden.
Helu will have competition for carries from Chris Thompson and Lache Seastrunk. Thompson had a limited roll as a punt and kickoff returner in 2013. His superior speed makes him an intriguing weapon for Gruden. Thompson's weakness has been injuries. His 2013 season was cut short by injury and he must remain healthy in 2014 if he wishes to make the ream. Thompson has practice squad eligibility and may end up there if he isn't able to beat out Seastrunk. Seastrunk is a dynamic shifty rookie runner from Baylor. Seastrunk had an amazing season running with the football at Baylor in 2013 but did not catch a single pass. Seastrunk must show that he is able to be effective catching the football and pass blocking before he will be used as an offensive weapon. Seastrunk and Thompson will both be given a chance to be a kickoff and punt returner for the Redskins. If one of them wins either of those jobs, he will be assured a roster spot. Special teams ability will be the first deciding factor on who is the #3 RB for the Redskins and whether they keep a 4th RB.
Evan Royster is entering his 4th season in the NFL. Royster was effective as a rookie RB for the Redskins in 2011. He ran for 328 yards and averaged 5.9 ypc. Since then, Royster has managed only 88 yards rushing including 0 yards in 2013. Royster has only 25 receptions in 3 years and is not as speedy or elusive as Seatrunk or Thompson. Royster will have to be amazing on special teams in order to make the team.
Silas Redd is an UDFA from USC. Redd has ability that was mostly unfulfilled in 2 seasons at USC after transferring from Penn State. He is a longshot to make the roster but has a decent chance of making the Redskins 8 man practice squad if he has a good training camp.
Darrel Young is the only fullback on the Redskins roster. Young is a top 5 FB in the NFL and a lock to make the 53 man roster. The only question about Young is whether Gruden will choose to go with more 2 TE alignments as he did in Cincinnati. That is unlikely with the Redskins because he does not have the same personnel at the TE position with the Redskins as he did with the Bengals. Young is an effective runner and receiver as well as a great pass blocker. If Young loses any playing time, it will be due to the Redskins WRs and how much Gruden chooses to employ the spread offense. We will cover that next week when we preview the Redskins Wide Receivers.