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As Playoffs Approach, Running Back Rotation Unclear

Posted Dec 31, 2015

With the Redskins playing in the regular season finale before hosting a playoff game, the team's running back rotation still isn't settled with four contributors each having a role.

With the Redskins playing in the regular season finale before hosting a playoff game, the team's running back rotation still isn't settled with four contributors each having a role.

With health being a major determining factor, the Washington Redskins are still trying to figure out how to best rotate the team's four running backs heading into the final week of the regular season and the playoffs.

Since Pierre Thomas signed with the Redskins earlier this month as a security policy, either Chris Thompson or Matt Jones has missed time with injuries.  

Thomas, who was limited in practice on Wednesday with a knee issue, played in place of Thompson – who was dealing with a torn labrum – in games against the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, while Matt Jones was unable to appear in last Saturday’s victory over the Philadelphia Eagles with a hip injury.

“Well, we have to hand it to somebody,” Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said this week of the rotation for Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys. “Right now Alfred [Morris] and Chris Thompson are the only two 100 percent healthy guys we’ve got. They’re going to get the rock right now. Hopefully, Pierre will be OK or Matt Jones can fight through it, and DY [Darrel Young] we still have — we can give him the ball a little bit.”

Jones was limited in practice on Wednesday and did not participate in Thursday’s session.

“He’s got a hip pointer and he doesn’t have full mobility where he can’t stride it out, stretch it out very good,” Gruden said. “Still feels a lot of pulling and tugging and pain. Tough spot, tough position for a hip pointer at running back.”

While the Redskins' solution to the running back situation Sunday in Dallas isn’t clear yet, it’s far from solidified for next weekend’s playoff game at FedExField, especially if all four running backs are healthy.

The Redskins have gone with at most three running backs (plus Young at fullback) active on gamedays this season, but they also didn’t have Thomas until Week 14.

After being used just sparingly against the Bears and Bills, Thomas was the team’s most effective back against the Eagles, recording four carries for 22 yards and seven catches for an additional 67 yards.

“I didn’t know until it was closer to game day,” Thomas said of his role against the Eagles. “I didn’t know what my role would be until game day hits and they said get ready. I told him I was already ready. To me that was my time to show everybody that I’ve still got it, and to show myself am I still hungry for change. I think I showed a lot of people that I still have it and I showed myself that I’m still hungry and I still belong in this league.

Thomas said his performance, which was similar to many during his nine seasons with the New Orleans Saints, was the Illinois product’s way of showing the Redskins and the rest of the league that he’s still got it.

“I showed them what I can do when they put me in the game,” Thomas said. “I feel they feel comfortable with me. I got a lot of good responses from the coaches and the players after that game and they’re happy to have me. I think we’re ready to move forward and I’m happy to move forward. I told the special team coach, ‘Hey, I’m down to help out on special teams.’ To me, I want to get back to that Super Bowl and I want these guys to feel that and understand that hand have that same feeling that I had in 2009.”

Thompson, meanwhile, returned to game action last Saturday, as the third-year Florida State product appeared on nine offensive snaps with a 12-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.

In a position where he’s not only contributing this season but a key for the offense especially on third downs, Thompson does not want to be on the side as his teammates try to make a deep playoff run.

“This is what I’ve been waiting for,” Thompson said. “I think that’s another reason why my intensity has picked up a whole lot as of late, besides frustration. But I just want to make sure I can do everything week in, week out from this point on to help us have success.”

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