WASHINGTON — Redskins running back Matt Jones is not expected to attend any organized team activities sessions this month and it’s unclear if he will report to veterans’ minicamp on June 13, according to multiple team and league sources.
Washington coach Jay Gruden has told Jones that he is the fifth-string running back during offseason workouts, a report by NFL Network’s Michael Silver stated on Thursday.
That information jives with everything reporters have seen and heard during the two open OTAs sessions. Rob Kelley, who took over for Jones as the starter at running back in Week 8 last season, is working with rookie Samaje Perine, third-down back Chris Thompson, Mack Brown and second-year pro Keith Marshall. Gruden was publicly hopeful that Jones would return to the team once workouts are no longer voluntary.
“I hope so. I expect him to be. He’s on our roster, he’s eating up a spot,” Gruden said on Wednesday. “We all know that this is voluntary, so there’s really nothing that we can do. We’d like everybody to be here without a doubt, but at the end of the day, [tight end] Jordan Reed is in Miami working out, [left tackle] Trent [Williams] is working out in Oklahoma. Matt Jones chose not to be here, so we obviously want people to work together and learn together, but it is voluntary at the end of the day.”
Privately, it’s hard to believe Gruden harbors the hope. Jones was a third-round pick in 2015 and entered last year as the primary starter at running back. But he has had astounding ball security issues (eight fumbles, six lost, 243 attempts). The Redskins drafting Perine was the final straw for Jones’ camp.
But even before the draft Gruden noted that Jones’ status with the team hadn’t changed much since last season when Brown was active the final two months because he could play special teams. Jones had to be ready to compete in camp for a roster spot. He has chosen another option.
Jones is still only an injury or two away from being back in the mix at running back. He’s a more talented overall player than Brown – a former college teammate at Florida – and has 950 rushing yards and seven touchdowns overall in two seasons. Marshall was a seventh-round pick last year out of Georgia, but missed last year with an elbow injury.
But it’s also clear the coaching staff still distrusts Jones and that the organization is ready to move on. Whether that means via trade or release is unclear. Depth matters in camp and the team might not see a reason to part with him until they absolutely have to. Injuries during the preseason to other teams at running back could also open up trade possibilities.
The situation isn’t exactly great for Washington, either. Jones was considered a reach during the 2015 draft when it selected him No. 95 overall. The Redskins’ original pick was No. 69 overall, but they traded down with Seattle for four draft picks.
That might have been a necessary move. It also meant, however, that they passed on drafting Arizona’s David Johnson, who was taken at No. 86 that year and has quickly become one of the NFL’s top backs.
The four extra draft picks Washington garnered in the Seahawks trade certainly eased the sting of apparently whiffing on Jones. But missing on third-round selections consistently is what helped fuel the Redskins’ decent into the NFC East basement seven times in nine years between 2006 and 2014.
Washington has been better in the draft in recent years – whether you want to give the credit for that to team president Bruce Allen, former head coach/executive Mike Shanahan, former general manager Scot McCloughan, or a stable group of executives and scouts led by director of college scouting ScottCampbell.
McCloughan, who is widely lauded for his skill at evaluating players, pushed hard for Jones, but it appears Jones could soon follow his former GM out the door at Redskins Park.
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