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Redskins need to work on running game

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

The Washington Redskins' run game wasn't an issue last season. The depth at running back was, however. Which is why the Redskins drafted two running backs and remain interested in bringing back Tim Hightower.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan loved Hightower before his torn ACL in 2011; it makes sense for him to give him a test once more. The Redskins also need more production from their third-down backs. Hence the drafting of dynamic Florida State back Chris Thompson and Rutgers' Jawan Jamison.

With the Redskins having started their organized team activities this week, here's where the running back position stands, with the five main participants:

Alfred Morris » He's the obvious starter after rushing for a franchise record 1,613 yards as a rookie. Morris says he left yards on the field last year, which any good back will feel. There's also no doubt the offense left yards with some missed cutback blocks (which improved as the season unfolded). Morris could become more of an all-around back by improving his third-down skills. But the reality is Washington could use more speed in that role (and needs him to take a break).

Evan Royster » Even as a rookie Royster was at his best when he started, allowing him to get into a rhythm. That means 15 to 20 carries, a number difficult to justify anymore when viewing Morris' success. As a third-down back Royster was just OK. His pass protection skills improved, though they weren't great. His hands were fine, but he wasn't a big threat once he caught the ball - he caught nine passes for a long of 16 yards.

Roy Helu » Durability has been the main issue since his rookie season; nothing has changed. If healthy Helu would help on third downs, especially on screens. The way Washington's offense can get players free in the open field suits him well. But Helu must prove he can stay healthy, a big if.

Chris Thompson » His college film, at times, was electrifying. Thompson's ability to change directions without losing speed would make him a dangerous fit in Washington's third-down attack. And his speed would increase the possibilities of the pistol offense, possibly using him on Jet sweeps similar to how San Francisco used speedy LaMichael James. But durability is an issue here as well. Thompson's two major injuries - a broken back and torn ACL - make him a question mark. He's also 5-foot-7, 190 pounds so size could be an issue (though less of one as a third-down back). He'll have to improve pass protection skills.

Jawan Jamison » If all goes according to plan, then Jamison likely would end up on the practice squad. But if the Redskins sign Tim Hightower (a possibility) and if Thompson's knee hasn't responded well and if Helu and Royster are either not healthy or unimpressive, then Jamison could sneak onto the roster. He's excellent in pass protection and tough in the open field. He's not a burner, but he does make defenders miss once past the line of scrimmage.

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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