ASHBURN -- For now, we should assume that Matt Jones will start the Washington Redskins' season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sept. 12. The second-year running back feels good about a left shoulder that felt anything but after spraining it during the second preseason game over two weeks ago.
Of course, that Week 1 game is still a touch over a week away. Jones spent Monday's practice wearing a non-contact jersey. If the Redskins need a fourth, they at least have preseason rushing leader Mack Brown ready and waiting on the practice squad.
Based on what Jones said Monday, that's probably a non-issue.
Based on what Gruden said after practice, there appears to be at least some concern with the injured shoulder.
Asked whether Jones is good-to-go for the opener, Gruden said, "That's the intent right now. We're just bringing him along. It will be interesting to see how he does Wednesday and Thursday. Another day in pads one of those days. I haven't decided which one yet." Gruden added the yellow jersey for Jones was because "we didn't want any contact today."
Those cautious words don't change the level of assumption with Jones playing Week 1. That Gruden wants to avoid contact is probably more of a nod to the constant injuries the RB has suffered with the Redskins and during his football career.
Yet for now only three runners are on the active roster. If we count Brown, that's two rookies backing up Jones; Thompson isn't an every-down back so let's never view him as a "backup" to Jones. Keeping just three backs isn't abnormal. Needs elsewhere helped dictate the decision. So did the growing confidence in Kelley.
"That's a lot of it," Gruden said. " We felt really good about Robert. We felt really good about Mack Brown. It was a tough decision. We tried to keep all four, but we kept 11 defensive backs. ...Some other position had to suffer because of that."
We can assume Jones is the starter for the Redskins Week 1 and beyond. That's both logical and fair. General manager Scot McCloughan predicted during training camp Jones would be the team's breakout player.
We can also believe that if Jones's shoulder injury gives Kelley a shot for work, the kid with strong field vision and slithery moves might make the starting job a real competition. It was clear way before Monday the head coach had confidence in "Fat Rob."
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