Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Redskins position preview: Running backs

We are almost through the roster now.

Here again is the pre-camp depth chart prediction for the running backs:

Running Backs
Primary tailback: Ryan Torain
Fullback: Keiland Williams
3rd down back: Tim Hightower 
Backup: Roy Helu 
Notable cuts: Evan Royster, James Davis, Darrel Young

I am not generally inclined to make snap judgments off of 10 preseason carries, but it does appear at this early stage that Hightower was brought in for more than just a third down role. Given Torain's chronic health issues, Hightower might be the safest bet to lead the Redskins in carries this year. Helu is most likely going to stick on the roster due to his potential and his status as a draft pick, but he appears to be raw enough that he will probably have to work his way into playing time as the year goes on. Wild guess on how many games each of these guys will lead the Redskins in carries: Hightower 9, Torain 5, Helu 2.

As for the others, James Davis appears to have taken his ball and gone home, which actually doesn't simplify things at all because he frankly had a point about not being given a chance. And Shaun Draughn, as an undrafted free agent at a deep position, is probably just praying for injuries to even have a chance.

Evan Royster is in a tough spot. Indications are that he is a pretty well rounded guy who can pick up a blitz at times but doesn't have much upside as a runner.  Here's the problem - that sounds a lot like Keiland Williams. I am partial to role-player running backs who do all the little things and whose running skills only take advantage of what the defense and the blocking give to them. Clearly Mike Shanahan disagrees, or else Keiland wouldn't now be trying to catch on as a fullback.

And speaking of fullback... Mike Sellers' move to tight end is one of the more puzzling developments of training camp, for reason we will go into more once we get to the tight end preview.  Before camp opened I had to give the benefit of the doubt to Keiland, since I had seen his work in the passing game last year and Darrel Young, after all, is a recently converted linebacker. In the Steelers game, however,  Young clearly seemed to be getting the best chance. The Redskins did keep two fullbacks last year (Sellers and Young) and used them on special teams, so Keiland does have a chance. The problem is that then the team can afford to keep one less tight end... it seems reasonable to think that if Sellers is kept as a tight end then he would, in a pinch, serve as the backup fullback as needed, making Keiland superfluous.

Previous position previews: Defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs, quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive line.

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