Redskins running back depth will be tested should Matt Jones miss significant amount of time
LANDOVER On Friday morning, long before the Washington Redskins’ 22-18 victory against the New York Jets in the second preseason game, coach Jay Gruden decided he was going to rest quarterback Kirk Cousins and other first team starters.
Left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed were held out because of injuries knee soreness for Williams and a right thumb sprain for Reed. Yet Cousins, inside linebacker Will Compton, wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan were all healthy scratches.
More so than just protecting his starters from injury, Gruden wanted to ensure his backup players were ready to go at anytime, which was why he didn’t tell McCoy he was starting until just before kickoff.
“We had a lot of our backups have to step up in starting roles last year and I felt it was important for Colt to get some quality work against a quality defense along with some of the other guys that played in first-team roles,” Gruden said.
The Redskins did not escape the game unscathed. Running back Matt Jones separated the AC joint in his left shoulder on a 3-yard carry with 1:35 to play in the first quarter. Eager to get the rushing attack on track, the Redskins went to Jones heavily in the first quarter and he was expected to finish the drive, which ended four plays later. He said he was initially sore, but regained some flexibility in his shoulder after the game and will undergo more tests on Saturday.
“When I went down, on a scale of 1-10 it was about a 7,” Jones said. “It settled down, it went down. I was a little down on myself, but things happen so I’m moving on to the next play and I’m ready to get better.”
Jones finished the game with 31 yards rushing on seven carries. It was a better performance than the brief one Jones had in the preseason opener. He was more decisive with his cuts and didn’t bounce his runs to the outside as often, though he still felt there was more he could improve on.
Washington’s depth at running back was thin to start and could be tested should Jones miss a significant amount of time. The Redskins have been counting on Jones as the lead back in his second season, but the team has yet to solidify the second running back position. Chris Thompson is entrenched as the team’s third-down back, while rookies Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall, plus second-year player Mack Brown are competing for the third roster spot.
Excluding Thompson considering his role as the third-down back, the Redskins are currently without a running back that has a single game of NFL experience while Jones is out.
“We have to wait and see how long he’s going to be out,” Gruden said. “Watching film to see how Chris Thompson, obviously and Marshall and Mack. We’ll see how they did. And obviously Rob. We’ll grade ’em out. My level of comfort [with the running back depth] will be determined after I watch the film.”
Kelley, who was the first to take reps after Jones and Thompson, finished with eight yards on three carries. Marshall rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries and Brown had seven yards on two carries. Thompson rushed for 18 yards on four carries.
Despite the short notice he’d be starting, Colt McCoy completed 13 of his 16 pass attempts for 159 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in the first half as the Redskins took a 14-2 lead after two quarters. McCoy led the Redskins offense to the Jets 8-yard line on the opening possession, but the drive ended when Darrelle Revis intercepted a pass in the end zone.
McCoy responded with a pair of touchdowns to Rashad Ross, including a 39-yard connection with 2:26 to play in the first half following Will Blackmon’s interception.
“We had three points in our back pocket on the first drive and I screwed that up,” McCoy said. “But overall, felt pretty good to get some snaps with the ones. I didn’t know I was going to start right before the game started, so in my position you always have to be ready. It was good.”