Commanders deep dive: Does Eric Bieniemy need a new type of running back?

Could the Commanders use more explosiveness at running back?

Brian Robinson Jr.
Brian Robinson Jr. / Brent Skeen-USA TODAY Sports
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Commanders are missing a breakaway RB

The Washington Commanders do not have a running back who is a legitimate break-away threat.

Last season, Washington’s longest run from scrimmage by a running back was a 33-yarder by McKissic against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5. The year before, no player at the position had a run longer than 27 yards.

To put that in context, the other three teams in the NFC all had backs who had runs of at least 40 yards during the 2022 season, topping out with Saquon Barkley’s 68-yard scamper against the Tennessee Titans.

In 2021, the other NFC East teams also boasted more big plays by running backs than the Commanders could manage. Dallas had three different backs – Tony Pollard, Ezekiel Elliott, and Corey Clement – each with longer runs than any Washington backfield presence.

I am assuming that the Washington coaches would prefer to have more big play potential from their running backs. But if they do, it does not show up in their drafting strategies.

Since finding Alfred Morris in Round No. 6 of the 2012 NFL Draft, Washington has drafted 10 running backs. Only the last three – taken during the Ron Rivera regime – remain with the club.

Of the others, Chris Thompson (fifth-round, 2013) was a very good third-down option for a number of years. The others – including high-profile talents like Derrius Guice, Bryce Love, and Matt Jones – were mostly busts.

Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, and Chris Rodriguez Jr. appear to have good potential. But I think it’s way too early to make any bold predictions about how they will be viewed five years down the road.

I can say this about them. They are all strong, powerful runners who can get some tough yards. And none of them is likely to break big runs longer than 30 yards this season. Washington, under Rivera, simply does not seem to value running backs with big play potential.