Do the Redskins Need a Veteran RB?

The running back depth chart is loaded with youth and intrigue, but is light on experience. That's not ideal, says Chris Russell.

The Redskins brought in a veteran tight end on Thursday in Vernon Davis. Why? Because they needed somebody who knows what they are doing. Essentially, a guy who won’t soil his pants in a playoff game or against a ferocious defense. They also brought Davis in for leadership purposes and because he can help put defenses in a difficult bind.

The Redskins tried at the last minute to bring back Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton but were out-bid by the New England Patriots, after Knighton had apparently decided to re-join the Redskins earlier in the day on Thursday. They tried to bring back Knighton for his talent, but also for his leadership and mental acumen.

Earlier this week, and possibly in the near future, the Redskins considered bringing in 35-year old Anquan Boldin. Why? There were multiple reasons, but because he’s been through just about everything on the football field, his influence would be a major benefit.

If the Redskins were willing to do this at tight end, wide receiver and on the defensive line – why don’t they seem to be in a rush to add a veteran running back?

The Redskins decided to let Alfred Morris go and he joined the Dallas Cowboys. Pierre Thomas was signed before the stretch run last year and played a somewhat critical role in the division clinching win, is a free agent who has yet to attract significant reported interest with other teams.

Right now, they have Matt Jones, Chris Thompson, Silas Redd and Mack Brown under contract.

Between the four players, the Redskins have less than five years combined of NFL Playing experience at the position.

That’s not enough under any reasonable approach, but many fans and pundits feel that running backs are a dime a dozen and the younger the better.

I totally understand why you want to have a younger body and fresher legs, but I think it’s a huge mistake to exchange that at all costs and not have some proven wisdom at a critical position.

The Redskins need a veteran running back because pass rushing schemes are more sophisticated than ever and that leads to confusion for offensive lines and running backs who are expected to identify potential blitzers pre-snap and rotate smoothly to the pressure.

Trust me – it’s not easy to do and get comfortable with.  Many young backs struggle with it.  Some veterans are not proficient either.

In addition to this element, the Redskins ideally should not be fully trusting of any of their four runners for various reasons.

Let's start with one of the most notable problems. Jones, Thompson and Redd have all dealt with some level of significant or recurring injury.

Jones, Washington's 2015 third round pick, missed the last two games of the regular season and the playoff loss, before having a procedure on his hip. At Florida, one of the knocks against him was staying healthy.

Thompson has overcome a lot in his young NFL career but that’s really nothing to the significant injuries he endured at Florida State. Tough for a smaller guy, but Thompson paid a heavy toll on his body.

Redd is recovering from a significant ACL injury suffered last August. Brown has no NFL experience and he only had 210 career rushing attempts at the University of Florida, where he was a teammate of Jones.

The Redskins are very likely going to select a running back in the first three rounds of this month’s NFL Draft, so they will have somebody else added to the mix.

That running back will of course have no experience and will struggle to adjust to pass protection and the NFL grind.

The Redskins appear to be somewhat convinced that Jones will be their lead back. “We let a heck of a running back (Alfred Morris) and a very productive running back go, because we have Matt,” Jay Gruden told reporters at the annual league meetings.

Gruden said the Redskins envision Jones being the number one back, because he has “size” and “measurables.”

The coach repeatedly mentioned his concern about Jones’ ball security issues. He’s absolutely right although Jones got better with that over his last month of the season.

I’m more concerned with Jones ability to stay healthy and some of the mental mistakes he made in wins over Chicago and Buffalo. Small things lost in big wins, but crucial nonetheless.

The Redskins were asking Jones to do more and there was some confusion. It could be nothing. It could be something a bit more significant.

I think Jones can be a significant weapon for Washington if he can stay healthy, hold onto the football and fine tune the mental aspect of the game. That's a big order to fill over just one offseason. .

If the Redskins have a veteran running back at least during the off-season and preseason, that individual might be able to import some wisdom on Jones, Thompson, Redd and Brown. They might be able to share what worked for them earlier in their career. 

Washington can bring Thomas back if they’d like and that would seem to make the most sense, but LeGarrette Blount is intriguing because of the team he would be coming from (New England). Chris Polk, who played in Houston last year and started his career in Philadelphia, is another interesting name and possible help on special teams returns.

No matter who we’re talking – the Redskins should do the smart thing and give themselves an insurance policy that isn’t still learning how to walk, and run.  

Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621.

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