Jun 16, 2015; Ashburn, VA, USA; Washington Redskins running back Matt Jones (31) participates in drills as part of day one of Redskins Minicamp at Redskins Park. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
The Washington Redskins running game dropped off significantly last season from 2013, so this season they had to take steps to ensure that the running game returns to being one of the best in the NFL.
They hired a new offensive line coach in Bill Callahan who was instrumental in making the Dallas Cowboys rushing attack one of the best in the league. They also bolstered the offensive line by drafting offensive tackle Brandon Scherff.
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However, one of the most significant moves the Redskins made was to draft running back Matt Jones in the third round of the draft. The Redskins lost third down back Roy Helu in free agency and they need to add more depth to the running back spot behind starter Alfred Morris.
In Morris the Redskins have one of the best runners in the game but with the Redskins going to more of a power running game they needed to add a back who could compliment Morris in not only carrying the football but also on third downs.
Matt Jones is known for his tough running style and the Redskins have compared to him to a poor man’s Marshawn Lynch but they have also been impressed with the receiving ability that he’s flashed in OTA’s.
But what is the best and worst case scenarios the Washington Redskins can expect from Matt Jones as a rookie? Looking at Roy Helu’s stats from last season he had an excellent year catching the football with 42 catches for 477 yards.
However, he only had 40 carries for 216 yards. I expect Matt Jones to get a lot more than 40 carries this season. Alfred Morris had 265 carries and I think that will stay about the same but the number two running back’s carries will go up.
The Redskins were only 21st in the league in rushing attempts with 401. I expect that total to be closer to 500 attempts in 2015. In order to get to 500 attempts the Redskins will need to average 31 attempts a game were they averaged 25 last season.
In 2014 Gruden at times abandoned the run when it wasn’t working but that should change this season
A lot of this will depend on how Jay Gruden and his offensive staff call plays this year. In 2014 Gruden at times abandoned the run when it wasn’t working but that should change this season. So in addition to Morris’ 265 carries I look for Jones to get between 100 to 125 carries.
The rest will be divvied up between quarterback Robert Griffin III, Darrel Young and the other back running back, either Silas Redd or Chris Thompson. If Jones gets 125 carries and averages at least 4 yards per carry he’ll end up with around 500 yards rushing.
We’ll have to see just how good Jones really is out of the backfield but I don’t expect him to catch 40 passes like Roy Helu did last season. Maybe 25-30 catches. Worst case for Jones is that the Redskins run Alfred Morris into the ground in his contract season like the Cowboys did with DeMarco Murray.
That would limit the number of attempts that Jones gets but I don’t think that will happen. Because unlike Murray, Alfred Morris won’t be on the field on third downs much. So the other backs will have opportunities when the Redskins have passing downs.
But typically teams aren’t shy about throwing rookie running backs into the mix and the Redskins didn’t draft Jones to watch on the sidelines. If Jones does solidify himself in the number two to Morris then he’s likely to get his share of touches and he should push Morris for carries.