Why the Redskins could keep only three running backs on the roster
The Washington Redskins have some talented running backs on their roster, but could they afford to keep just three? The answer may surprise you.
This offseason, the Redskins running back room looked stronger than it had in recent seasons. With living legend Adrian Peterson and talented 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice expected to share the backfield, it looked like the team had a dynamic one-two punch at the position. Even better, the team has receiving back Chris Thompson on the squad as well, and he is one of the better receiving backs in the league when healthy.
Beyond that trio, the team has Samaje Perine, who received praise from Jay Gruden this offseason, and rookie fourth-round pick Bryce Love, who is still recovering from an injury and will likely start the season on the NFI list. Add in veteran Byron Marshall, undrafted rookie Craig Reynolds, and the shifty Shaun Wilson and it seemed like the team had quite a few options at the position.
However, despite the team’s perceived depth, one thing is starting to become clearer. It may benefit the team to carry just three backs on the roster to start the season in Peterson, Guice, and Thompson.
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The reasoning for this is quite simple. Before the preseason began, it seemed like Perine was going to make the roster and serve as an insurance policy this season as he did last year. However, Perine hasn’t performed well in two preseason games, and that could cause him to get cut unless he has a breakout performance in the third contest. That seems unlikely, so the third-year back may be looking for a new team this offseason.
That said, if the Redskins do cut Perine, there isn’t another logical player that could step into his roster spot. Sure, they could opt to keep the underwhelming Marshall as receiving insurance for Thompson. But he hasn’t proven to be anything special after spending parts of the last two seasons with the team. Meanwhile, Wilson was injured in the second preseason game while Reynolds has looked good, but could be stashed on the practice squad.
Typically, the Redskins only have three backs active on game day. So, they could opt to carry just three to start the season while stashing a guy like Reynolds on the practice squad. It’s highly unlikely that Reynolds would be claimed, and even if he was, they could sign Marshall to that unit or add another young back and call him up in case of injury.
By doing this and keeping three running backs, it could afford them an opportunity to keep a seventh receiver (Darvin Kidsy), a fifth safety (Jeremy Reaves), or a depth player at another position that they like. Realistically, it wouldn’t have much of an impact on their running back rotation, at least early on in the season. And if they became worried about their depth at any point, they could have an ace up their sleeve if Love is ready to return midway through the campaign.
Of course, all of this depends on whether or not Guice is healthy to start the season. Guice hasn’t yet been cleared to play in the preseason and that is currently a minor red flag, though the team may just be exercising caution with him as he returns from an ACL tear. If he can’t get on the field, then the team will need to carry four backs, as Guice will be on the inactive list to start the season. But if not, carrying three while using a roster spot on another position would make a good deal of sense.
We’ll see what the Redskins end up deciding to do. But if they’re going to move on from Perine, keeping just three running backs could be a good way to load up on talent at some of their other thinner positions.