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Redskins' Roster Review: Running Backs


With offseason workouts beginning next week at Redskins Park,'s Brian Tinsman takes a look at the team's strengths and offers storylines to watch. First up: running backs.

Prior to last season, the Redskins had not had a feature back on the roster since Clinton Portis rumbled for 1,487 yards in 2008. 

In the intervening years, the team relied on several combinations of role backs, cycling through Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, Keiland Williams, Ryan Torain, Tim Hightower, Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr., among others.

It took an unheralded rookie out of Florida Atlantic University to prove that the age-old franchise running back is not outdated in the NFL.

Alfred Morris seized the starting job out of training camp last season, proving his talent and durability to the tune of 335 carries for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns.

While mobile quarterback Robert Griffin III had the lion's share of the rest of the team's carries (120-of-184 carries), 16 Redskins carried the football in 2012.

It may not be a true running-back-by committee in Washington, here's a look at the rest of the Redskins' roster.



Redskins' running backs currently under contract for next season: Morris, Royster, Helu Jr., Tristan Davis and Keiland Williams.

Redskins fullbacks currently under contract for next season: Darrel Young, Dorson Boyce, Eric Kettani.

After a healthy offseason, Morris is slated to return as the starter and feature back, looking to back up the best single-season numbers in franchise history.

Young is expected to retain his job as the team's lead blocker after re-signing as a free agent this offseason.

Young has seen not only his workload as a blocker increase in the last two seasons, but also his involvement in the offense. In 2012, he rushed for a career-high 60 yards on 14 carries, including a career-long 16-yard rumble.

He also developed as a threat in the passing game, pass blocking efficiently and catching eight passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The Redskins are hopeful that Helu Jr. and Royster will be fully healthy in 2013 after struggling with injuries for most of training camp last season.

When healthy, Helu Jr. brings a dynamic element to the position, showing the ability to carry the load, change the pace and catch the ball out of the backfield.

During his rookie season in 2011, Helu Jr. touched the ball 200 times, including a franchise record-tying 14 receptions against the San Francisco 49ers.

In total, he had three 100-yard rushing performances and one 100-yard receiving performance. If he can solve the lower leg injuries that plagued him last season, he brings a unique element back to the offense.

Royster is much more of an unknown entity, with only 79 rushes and 24 receptions in his career. He appeared in only six games last year, but provided the team with a reliable third-down option down the stretch.

Despite limited opportunities in the lineup, Royster has two 100-yard games in his career and has some breakaway speed. If healthy, he can contribute.

The Redskins have also retained Williams and Davis, who are expected to battle for playing time into training camp.

Williams returned to the team midseason last year, while Davis spent the season on injured reserve.

Boyce and Kettani both spent last season in the system, with Boyce impressing in the preseason before suffering a season-ending injury. Kettani, a product of the Naval Academy, spent the season on the practice squad.

As is typical with Mike Shanahan-coached teams, don't be surprised to see the Redskins take a flyer on a late-round rookie running back, or even an intriguing undrafted free agent.

The order of the depth chart behind Morris should be a storyline to watch throughout the preseason.


Three NFL Running Backs Available In Free Agency

As of April 1, 2013; names listed are in no particular order:

--Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants: Few free agent running backs have the impressive resume that Bradshaw possesses. And yet few free agent running backs have been run as had as Bradshaw has over the course of his career. Bradshaw appeared in 14 games for the Giants last season, rushing 221 times for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns. If his nagging foot injury is healed, he has the ability to be effective in a two-back system.

--Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals: Two years removed from his only career 1,000-yard season, Wells remains an intriguing back. While he has yet to live up to his NFL expectations coming out of Ohio State, Wells has the size (6-2, 229 pounds) to be a goal-line complement to Morris in the backfield. However, the knee has to be healthy.

--Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys: The Redskins have used divisional play to scout opposing players in the past, bringing in Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen to shore up the line in the past. Jones brings a shifty element to any backfield, but may not have the speed and elusiveness to be a feature back any longer. After peaking in 2010, Jones has seen his carries, yards and average fall in each of the last two seasons. He did, however, match a career-high with three touchdowns in his 2012 campaign.




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