It has been no secret that since becoming the head coach of the Washington Redskins Jay Gruden has been seeking a third down, change of pace running back with solid hands to catch out of the backfield. The first year head coach had Giovani Bernard to fill that role in Cincinnati and was very successful in using the "scat back" to create match-up problems for opposing defenses.
Since Gruden took over for Mike Shanahan, the Redskins have expressed interest in Darren Sproles, drafted Lache Seastrunk, and had high hopes for Chris Thompson only to realize that he couldn't be relied upon to stay healthy. That would indicate that the first year head coach is not satisfied with his current third down back situation, and would seek an upgrade if it presented itself.
Could LaMichael James be that upgrade? The third year pro recently requested to be released by the San Francisco 49ers, who drafted him in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. The 49ers released James this morning, making him a free agent.
James and Bernard have eerily similar body types, James is 5'9 208 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.45 seconds. Whereas Bernard is 5'8 197 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. The biggest difference between James and Bernard? James has 5 career receptions for 45 yards, while Gio has 62 career receptions for 576 yards and 3 scores.
James clearly isn't the polished pass catcher that Bernard is, but much like Lache Seastrunk who was released by the Redskins before the start of the season, James is electric with the ball in his hands. James was a dynamic play maker back in his Oregon days, and led the nation with 1,731 yards in 2010.
LaMichael James has been solid in the return game during his time with the 49ers, averaging 10.9 yards per punt return and 28.4 yards per kickoff return respectively. This could be an area the Redskins could use him in. Although Andre Roberts fared well in his debut as the Redskins primary return specialist, they may want to limit his reps to protect him from being injured. With Jordan Reed's health in question, Roberts will take on a bigger role in the offense if Reed is forced to miss any time.
Will LaMichael James end up with the Redskins? Truthfully probably not, but it is certainly an interesting scenario to look at, and the Redskins will likely at the very least take a look at the former Oregon standout.