WASHINGTON — It’s not time to panic — yet.
The Washington Redskins running game was suspect entering the season with a mediocre rookie season by its lead back and a smattering of unproven newcomers. Now two preseason games have shown nothing special by anyone and presumed starter Matt Jones once again injured.
This was not the plan.
But, the Redskins should wait until Aug. 30 when NFL rosters are reduced by 480 players before seeking a veteran. That gives Keith Marshall, Mack Brown or Robert Kelley another game to prove worthy of 20 carries weekly if needed. It lets Washington see how long Jones needs to recovers from a sprained AC joint.
Maybe the Redskins are in trouble, but they have a little time to realize it. This isn’t the time to replicate general manager Vinny Cerrato hastily trading two picks for aging Miami veteran Jason Taylor in 2008 after losing defensive end Philip Daniels in training camp. That move proved a bust.
The upside is Jones showed enough against the New York Jets on Friday to warrant another look whenever he returns. The Redskins need to restrict Jones to straight-ahead running because he lacks outside speed, but Jones is starting to get more yards after contact. The only problem is being pestered with injuries since arriving last season. Is Jones reliable over a whole season?
Meanwhile, Kelley has flashed at times with 48 yards on 10 carries. But, it has been with reserves. That’s a whole different game. Still, Gruden can’t stop talking about the undrafted Tulane rookie. Keith Marshall is an enticing seventh-rounder with great speed and 222 pounds. But, so far he has shown little with 25 yards on 15 carries. Brown has 35 yards on nine carries, but against third-stringers.
Chris Thompson is a proven third down back and probably Washington’s best overall runner. But, he’s going to stay the third down back.
It doesn’t help that the offensive line hasn’t run blocked well with left tackle Trent Williams resting a sore knee and the Redskins still looking at left guard-center combinations. Ultimately, the best blocking combination is Shawn Lauvao at left guard, Spencer Long at center and Vernon Davis at tight end. Gruden has a couple more weeks to decide that, too.
Now, Washington will succeed or fail this season with the pass. Last season, Washington passed 55.1 percent of its snaps. This year, look for that to edge closer to 60 percent. Frankly, 55.1 percent seemed low because most of the big plays were passes, but NFL teams need balance and as much as the Redskins often abandoned the run in second halves, they still need to do it.
Maybe Jones heals quickly and reserves bolster confidence with a good outing against Buffalo on Friday at FedEx Field. But if neither happens, general manager Scott McCloughan needs to first scan the Sept. 1 cuts hoping to find the next Pierre Thomas before a last-scenario move of trading a seventh-rounder for someone’s backup.
After all, it’s not time to panic — yet.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.