By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
20 questions in 20 days
As we count down to the first game of the Redskins’ season, Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler are going to be looking at some of the big questions facing the team and attempting to look into their crystal balls and answer them.
Question 5: Will a running back by committee approach work?
The background: Ever since Clinton Portis sustained a concussion midway through the 2009 season, the Redskins have not had a workhorse running back. It doesn’t look like things are going to change this year. Evan Royster, Roy Helu Jr., and Alfred Morris all have their strong points but none of them has demonstrated the ability to tote the rock 20 times a game, week in and week out. That means that all three of them will have to carry the load if the Redskins are going to be successful running the ball.
Tandler: The “workhorse” back is becoming a thing of the past in what has become a passing league. Neither Super Bowl participant had a runner with as many as 200 carries. While it may be nice to have a prime back like Ray Rice (291 rushing attempt) or Frank Gore (292), it’s not necessary to win. Having a productive running game is still important but having one back get the lion’s share of the carries is not. What the Redskins need is a change of approach. Since Portis faded from the scene they have run with one back until he was injured or became ineffective and then switched to the next guy. What Mike and Kyle Shanahan need to do is come up with a plan to rotate the backs, play to their strengths, and keep them fresh and healthy. A planned running back by committee approach will work; riding one back until he drops and then saddling up the next one will not.
El-Bashir: Although we don’t know how the Shanahans plan to deploy their stable of running backs, it appears the coaching staff is leaning toward utilizing all three -- and for good reason. Royster is rugged and instinctive. Helu is elusive, a decent receiver and an effective pass protector. Morris makes one cut and he’s gone. While none is of the “featured back” variety, the trio could form a potent combination, particularly if opposing defenses become preoccupied with the possibility of quarterback Robert Griffin III taking off with the ball as well. But there are concerns. Royster, Helu and Morris have a grand total of seven NFL starts between them. Another is health. Royster missed time in the preseason with knee and neck ailments, while Helu was sidelined with two sore Achilles’ tendons. Considering both were hobbled by injuries at various points last season, too, it’s a major concern.
20 questions in 20 days
Jammal Brown play this year?
#19 Aug.21—Will Chris Cooley make the team?
#18 Aug. 22—Can Brandon Meriweather get he job done at safety?
#17 Aug. 23—Is Garçon a No. 1 receiver?
#16 Aug. 24—Can Trent Williams go from good to great?
#15 Aug. 25—Can DeAngelo Hall be a defensive playmaker?
#14 Aug. 26—Can Santana Moss regain his old form?
#13 Aug. 27—Can Orakpo post 15 sacks?
#12 Aug. 28—Will Leonard Hankerson break out?
#11 Aug. 29—Can the Redskins flip their turnover ratio?
#10 Aug. 30—How much can Hightower contribute this year?
#9 Aug. 31—Was making Billy Cundiff the kicker a good move?
#8 Sept. 1—Will Josh Morgan be worth the investment?
#7 Sept. 2—What can Jarvis Jenkins contribute?
#6 Yesterday—Is the offensive line depth good enough?
#5 Today—Will a running back by committee work?
#4 Tomorrow—Should we expect a sophomore slump from Ryan Kerrigan?
#3 Thursday—How many wins is enough?
#2 Friday—How much should RG3 run?
#1 Saturday—Can RG3 . . . ?