By Ben Standig
Observations or thoughts from team drills during spring practices are often couched with a reference to no pads being worn, no tackles being made. Rightfully so, especially when it comes to the running game, so says the man in charge.
"With running backs you really don’t know until you put them in a game situation," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You’ve got a good feel. It’s a lot like the safety position. Until you see them hit, you really don’t know if they’ve got a sense for the ball at the safety position. [It’s] the same thing with a running back. Can they run? Can they protect? Until people are shooting at him live bullets, you don’t know for sure.”
Obviously, the Redskins got a long look at Roy Helu Jr. last year. On Thursday, the dual threat back flashed his effective pass receiving skills, hauling in a couple of short scoring passes from Robert Griffin III.
Especially with Tim Hightower (knee surgery) on the sideline, Helu is the top backfield option, though others received snaps with the first team during what was a mix-and-match team drills session. Tristan Davis' ability popped on a couple of touches, but again, no pads, no tackling - and once Hightower is back, potentially no more run for the veteran addition with the starters.
As for Hightower, Shanahan said, “I haven’t been able to see Tim practice yet. He’s biting at the bit, ready to go. I can’t tell you if it’ll be two weeks or three weeks, but he’ll be ready for the season."
I talked with Hightower as he walked off the practice field and as I wrote yesterday, the veteran seems encouraged by his progress following surgery in November. However, having "never been through this process", he's been hesitant to project a timeline for his return.
"You know your body," Hightower said. "I’m a full speed kind of guy, practice at full speed, give effort. If I’m not able to come out and do that on a consistent basis, I’m not going to practice."
That means more reps and opportunity for the other guys to show they are worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster or the practice squad. That's something, but especially with running backs, hardly the larger part of the evaluation process.