By Rich Tandler
With the championship competition phase of Redskins’ 2011 season essentially over, let’s take a look at what really matters right now. What pieces of the puzzle for 2012 and beyond are in place? Where will the Redskins have to look for help in free agency and in the draft? Over the next two weeks we’ll put the roster under the microscope and see who might be key members of a playoff team and which ones need to be left on the side of the road.
Yesterday we looked at the offensive line. Today it’s the running backs We’ll work our way through the roster by position over the next couple of weeks.
Key starters: None
Marginal/depth players: Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, Darrel Young, Evan Royster
Out by 2013: Ryan Torain, Mike Sellers
This is a difficult position to figure. With the exception of Sellers, any of the players here could be a starter next year. And any of them could be gone by 2013.
After being a part-time player for most of his three season with the Cardinals, Hightower was “the guy” until he injured his knee. But even though he had most of his carries behind the pre-injury starting offensive line, he still averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. He may have improved as the year went on or he could have remained spinning his wheels. Hightower is a free agent next year and although he says he wants to stay in Washington nothing is done until a deal is signed. The contract status, the knee, and his production make him a question mark at this point in time.
Helu has the potential to be a home-run threat. He has the capability to make jaw-dropping athletic moves, something no one else on the team has. But the NFL roadside is littered with athletic running backs who couldn’t master the finer points of the game. He is the most likely to be a long-term keeper but he is not sure thing.
Torain has regressed from last year—or has he? He had 164 attempts in 10 games last year; this year he has just 50 in seven games. It is difficult for a slasher to get going while getting about half of the workload. Still, his 2011 average of 3.8 yards per carry is what it is after he posted 4.5 a pop last year. It seems likely that if the Redskins draft another young running back, or if 2011 draft pick and current practice squad back Evan Royster shows promise, Torain could be the odd man out.
Young is a solid fullback; there is no reason to think that the Redskins will actively seek an upgrade at the position but if one falls into their laps they would consider it. It seems unlikely that Sellers, who will be 37 next season, will be back but then again, few thought that he would still be on the roster this year. His ability to serve as an emergency tight end and his special teams prowess help keep him around so don’t completely count him out.
Royster just moved up from the practice squad, we'll have to see what he can do if he gets a few carries in a regular-season game.