- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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With final cuts being made this week, here's my handicap of the Redskins' running back situation:
How many will they keep: With issues elsewhere, I thought the Redskins would only keep four running backs, including a fullback. But I can see them keeping five; it would mean keeping only eight offensive linemen or five receivers (you could not keep five running backs, nine linemen and six receivers and also keep four tight ends and three quarterbacks).
Locks: Alfred Morris, Roy Helu and Darrel Young. These three are obvious; Morris looks sharp and is a better runner than a year ago. What that translates into remains to be seen because other factors will affect his performance. Helu will help on third downs and can start games if necessary. I wouldn’t want him starting more than a few games in a row just because of durability issues so it would be wise to have another potential every-down back. Young is a solid fullback.
Looking good: Chris Thompson. I know the rookie fumbled the other night, his second of the preseason and I know he has durability issues. But he offers them something they don’t have in terms of his speed and quickness. I love his ability to set up defenders and make quick cuts; and he’s not afraid to turn it upfield. So I came into Monday thinking they’ll find a way to keep him. You can’t make him bigger, but you can work on ball security issues -- there are other small backs in the NFL. What you can’t work on a whole lot with a player is speed. When a guy has it, you find ways to keep them around. That was my thought this morning. And then coach Mike Shanahan said this about him, “I like what I see, especially after not playing all last year coming off the ACL, and I think he’ll just keep on getting better as time goes on.” Quotes like that are quite meaningful this time of the year.
Fighting for a spot: Keiland Williams and Evan Royster. Williams is a better special teams player so if he’s not starting or serving as a third-down back, he can still help. Royster is best used as a move-the-chains runner. Yes, he can play special teams, returning kickoffs for example, and he can back up Helu as a third-down back (so can Williams). Neither one is a dynamic runner. I think Royster, against starting defenses, does a better job than Williams in this area. This is a close call.
Practice squader: Jawan Jamison. He hasn’t done a whole lot this summer and, unlike Thompson, he does not have game-changing speed. I like some of what I’ve seen from him, but not enough to say he deserves a roster spot.