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2017 Redskins Season In Review: Running Backs


While Chris Thompson was off to a record-setting pace, he was one of five Redskins running backs who ended the season on Injured Reserve.

As the Redskins head into the offseason looking to get back to their winning ways, will provide position-by-position reflections from the 2017 squad.

Up next: the running backs. 

Perhaps no position group for the Washington Redskins was more depleted by injuries this season than the running backs.

Entering the year, the Redskins were confident in the trio of Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson. Each flashed their own strengths and playmaking abilities, but only Perine – who started the year at a slow pace before coming on late – finished the year healthy.

Kelley and Thompson were among the four running backs that were placed on Injured Reserve during the season.

Earning the starting running back role with the Redskins midway through the 2016 season, Kelley's 2017 campaign was plagued by numerous lower body issues. While the Tulane product ran for 78 yards in the first half of Washington's Week 2 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, he was removed from the game due to an injury. He would miss the next game against the Oakland Raiders before being held to 23 yards or fewer in his final five games of the season.

He finished the year with 62 carries for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Kelley also did not fumble for the second straight year, as he now has tallied 230 career carries without a fumble.

Thompson, meanwhile, was easily Washington's most productive offensive player before suffering a fractured fibula against the New Orleans Saints in November. In 10 games, Thompson recorded 64 carries for 294 yards with two touchdowns along with 39 receptions 510 receiving yards and four touchdowns.

According to FootballPerspective, Thompson's 13.1 yards per catch was the highest yards per catch by any running back with at least 500 receiving yards since Garrison Hearst (13.7) in 1998.

As for Perine, the Oklahoma product recorded just 66 carries for 210 yards with no rushing touchdowns in Washington's first nine games of the year, which was mostly in a backup role. But in back-to-back games in November, Perine became the first Redskins running back to record consecutive 100-yard games since Alfred Morris in 2013.

The 2017 fourth-round pick finished the year with team highs in attempts (175) and rushing yards (603).

After Thompson's season-ending injury, the Redskins signed Byron Marshall off Philadelphia's practice squad. In four games on Washington's active roster, Marshall recorded nine carries for 32 yards and six receptions for 36 yards. However, the Oregon product suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in a December loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

In Marshall's place, Washington called up Kapri Bibbs from the practice squad. In three games, Bibbs carried the ball 21 times for 79 yards while catching 14 passes for 128 yards, highlighted by a 36-yard score against the Arizona Cardinals.

Dare Ogunbowale, LeShun Daniels, Kenny Hilliard and Mack Brown also spent time on the active roster.

Washington has to determine which running backs they want to return first before building a depth chart.

While Kelley's numbers dipped during the 2017 season, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes it was due to the fact he was never fully healthy.

"Rob Kelley, his second game of the year against the Rams he almost had 100 yards and that's when he hurt his ankle," Gruden said. "He never really was quite the same, but when healthy Rob Kelley was very good. Unfortunately he played in about three or four games not healthy and he just kept returning that ankle and we had to put him on IR."

The loss of Thompson, meanwhile, impacted Washington's big-play abilities out of the backfield, as Gruden noted on numerous occasions throughout the year his belief that the 2013 fifth-round pick is the best third-down back in the NFL. Additionally, one of Thompson's strengths is pass-blocking.

Gruden said that Thompson has lost about 10 pounds since suffering the injury almost two months ago now, but should be ready to go for offseason activities at some point.

Washington will also look for more out of Perine in his second season. Although the 5-foot-11, 236 pounder isn't a burner, the coaching staff believes he's the kind of player that can wear down opposing defenses with more and more carries.

As for the rest of the running backs, Bibbs caught the attention of Gruden as the injuries piled up.

"Coming in here as late as he did to pick up the protections and the routes and the tracks and all that stuff for running backs, it's not easy," Gruden said. "And I was impressed with Kapri and what he did. I think we had high hopes for getting Byron Marshall. And then unfortunately he pulls his hamstring on a kickoff return, for goodness' sake. We have a lot of backs we got a chance to look at, you know?

"So we have to make some decisions moving forward. You know, Rob Kelley coming back from his injury and obviously Samaje [Perine] had a decent rookie year and Chris Thompson will be coming back with Byron and Kapri and Keith Marshall still in the building. So we have a lot of guys that we have to look at and critique."


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