Redskins Searching For A Change-of-pace Running Back

Posted on July 25, 2014 by Pat Donohue

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have six running backs at training camp, and third-year back Alfred Morris will occupy the starting role. But beyond that, it remains to be seen how the Redskins' backfield will shape up as the coaching staff searches for a change-of-pace back to complement Morris' bruising running style. 

These kinds of backup running backs tend to provide either a little more speed than the starter or the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield more consistently. They must also be able to pass protect, because they are usually relegated to third downs.

Behind Morris, the Redskins have several players who fit that mold, including Roy Helu Jr., Silas Redd, Evan Royster, Lache Seastrunk and Chris Thompson. The search for the lightning to Morris' thunder is one that will be ongoing throughout camp. 

Already, most of these backs have been rotated in with the first team during seven-on-seven drills. As of now, many expect Helu Jr. to be the front-runner for the second spot on the depth chart because of his versatility and familiarity with the offense, though Seastrunk is someone to keep an eye on. A rookie out of Baylor, Seastrunk was a playmaker in college and is attempting to translate that to the next level.

Ryan Clark Becoming A Fan Favorite

This may be safety Ryan Clark's second tour with Washington after spending the last eight years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but by watching his interaction with Redskins fans at training camp, one would think he hadn't left. 

Clark is being looked at as someone who can step up and not only be a leader on defense, but also help the perennial problem that the Redskins tend to have at safety. He is also taking the lead in quickly becoming a fan favorite. One way to get Redskins fans on your side is to support or don anything that has to do with the late Sean Taylor, who was a safety for the team from his 2004 rookie season until his November 2007 death.

Clark came out for practice July 25 sporting a No. 21 jersey instead of his usual 25 to show his respects to Taylor. Clark also wore a towel from his pants that had the No. 21 and Taylor's name on it.

As if all that weren't enough to ingratiate him with Redskins fans, Clark also had a few moments during the seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills when he came to slap some hands and joke around with spectators on the sideline.

Better Weather Means A Better Offense

Weather at practice June 25 was much nicer than it had been the previous day, and other than the field being damp, the conditions were perfect for practice, and it showed.  The whole offense looked sharper, and offensive coordinator Sean McVay was emphasizing quick three-step drops with fast releases to his quarterbacks, which are staples of the West Coast offense the Redskins will be running. 

During 11-on-11 drills, quarterback Robert Griffin III threw numerous check-down passes. This could be a result of McVay and first-year head coach Jay Gruden wanting him to get the ball out quicker or a sign that he is struggling to read defensive coverage.

Griffin looked to be healthy and moving well, but he was still having a problem with some of his balls sailing high. In fact, almost all of his incompletions came on overthrows, which can lead to tipped balls and interceptions, so expect the coaching staff to address that as well.

Backup quarterback Kirk Cousins, on the other hand, has looked sharp throughout camp. There's no quarterback controversy expected for Washington this year, but it should still make fans the coaches feel good to have a developing, solid backup.

Jordan Reed Could Have Big Year In Spread Offense

During formation drills, there was an emphasis on three- and four-wide receiver sets, most of which included tight end Jordan Reed being split out wide. Many expect Reed, whose rookie season got off to a hot start, but ended early because of injury, to have a big season in the revamped Redskins offense.  

Reed looks healthy, and certainly has all of the physical tools needed to be a premier tight end in this league. But there are questions about there being enough balls to go around, and Gruden's use of the tight end in the past raises a few concerns. 

For starters, the addition of DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts add multiple dimensions to this offense, which will probably result in a more spread-out distribution. But also, going back to Gruden's days as offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, where he had a tight end with similar attributes to Reed in Jermaine Gresham, that position didn't seem to play too large of a role in Gruden's offense. In the end, what might end up hurting Reed's production might not be at any fault of his own, but the way he's used and the number of chances he receives.

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