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Redskins Running Backs Prepare For First Test On Monday Night


Will all three running backs approaching full health, the Redskins will get an opportunity Monday to test exactly what their rushing attack will be capable of this year.

Monday night will give the first real look at the Washington Redskins' starting offense for an entire game after only playing a few series during the preseason. And certainly quite a bit of attention will be place on the running backs.

Matt Jones, who is listed as questionable, is hopeful to return to the field after missing the final two preseason games with an AC sprain.

Jones was a full participant for multiple days of practice leading up to the game.

"You can tell a big difference between two weeks ago," Jones said. "I feel like I'm in a great position right now."

Fellow running backs Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley will also see the field Monday to give Jones relief and give the offense more variety.

"How we're moving the football will dictate who's playing and what certain situations those guys are playing in," Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. "We're hopeful that Matt will stay healthy but I think you'll see a good rotation of all three of those guys."

Thompson, who has also been dealing with a shoulder injury, only saw limited snaps this preseason.

Even though he will be a backup to Jones and the team's third-down back, getting all of the players back on the field will be a long awaited moment.

Thompson is coming off the best season of his career, as the Florida State product had 35 carries for 216 yards in 2015 and emerged as a threat in the receiving game, catching 35 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns.

"This will be our first game being able to play a full-out game and really get going," Thompson said. "I'm excited to see Matt and how he's progressed so far in these last two years that he's been here. I think he's going to have a really good game, a really good year this year and Rob Kelley, he's been doing good ever since he's been here. So it should be exciting."

Kelley made the roster based on his preseason performance, taking advantage of the extra snaps he received due to Jones and Thompson being unavailable. He rushed for 198 yards on 38 carries and finished with one touchdown.

With the pair now healthy and ready for action, Kelley likely won't see the same kind of production against the Steelers. So he is going to make sure he takes advantage of every snap.

"As the game goes on, they might throw me in sometime, they might take me out. Depends on how [the coaches] feel at that time," Kelley said. "Whatever the role may be I am ready to take it on."

 The three backs will see the field based on the progression of the game, availability and their different styles of running

"If there's a certain play that we might want to have Chris Thompson get, or Kelley get, or Matt [Jones], we always have communicated that ahead of time. If it's something that we anticipate getting to, we're talking about that on the headset beforehand," McVay said. "If a guy's in a rhythm—Coach (Randy) Jordan (running backs coach) having played the position for as long as he did—kind of has a feel for when a guy's hot and he kind of lets those guys roll."

With last year's starter, Alfred Morris, now playing for the Dallas Cowboys, it will be up to these three running backs to keep the production going to help the offense remain balanced.

Facing a tough Steelers defense -- that finished fifth in rushing defense in 2015 -- will provide an early challenge for the unit to show exactly how effectively they can run the ball.

"It's very important for us to be a balanced offense. When you can stay in normal down-and-distances, when you have run-pass options, you're able to keep the defense off-balance and that's definitely something that we always strive to do," McVay said. "Ultimately we're going to try and attack what they're presenting and what we feel like gives us the best way to move the football. Being able to run the football efficiently and being able to control the clock is going to be very important for us to have a chance to win on Monday."

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