Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden knows that some tough decisions will have to be made this weekend when the team's roster must be cut from 75 to 53 players.
The difficulty of the cut-down process may be hardest at the running back position, where all six of the team's running backs on the roster impressed during the preseason.
“Each running back, when they get their number called, they produce pretty well,” Gruden said after the Redskins’ preseason finale victory Thursday evening over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We’re just going to have to evaluate the whole process from training camp to OTAs and the games that they played.
“We will go back and look at all of their pass protection pickups in practice and routes and runs, evaluate them and make a sound decision.”
While Pro Bowler
Seastrunk, for example, built off a strong performance against the New England Patriots in which he recorded runs of 21 and 19 yards, and then caught a screen pass against the Buccaneers and turned it into an 80-yard touchdown.
“I feel like I’ve given them (the coaches) everything they wanted to see – pass catching – [and] I feel like I was running the ball as tough as I could,” the sixth-round pick said. “I feel like I’ve given them everything that I have.
“The only thing I can do is continue to show them if I have the opportunity again, and just keep putting on for my family.”
Seastrunk – who lost his grandmother last week – said he felt her “running with me the whole way” as he darted past the entire Buccaneers defense.
“I felt my grandma was with me the whole way,” he said. “My mom told me yesterday, right before I laid my head down, ‘It’s time to claim (your spot).’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll claim it.’
“All of a sudden, I felt the catch and I felt the crease. I felt my grandma running with me the whole way and it was the coolest feeling in the world. I felt her with me the whole way. I had to wave and say thank you.”
Thompson returned to game action Thursday for the first time since the Patriots game and logged eight carries for 18 yards and added an additional 41 receiving yards.
With his ankle injury taken care of, Thompson was able to concentrate on performing at a level he knows he’s capable of.
“I was so calm out there not thinking about coming out of a game healthy,” he told CSN Washington. “I think in the first game I was so focused on playing good and trying to come out the game healthy and just wasn’t able to be myself, and I didn’t come out the game healthy.
“Today, I just went out and had fun. (Running backs) coach (Randy) Jordan just kept reminding us that we just out here playing a kids game and that just helped me. I kept thinking about that throughout the w
Knowing that his fellow running backs have been performing well, though, Thompson admitted that the next few days are going to “very nerve wrecking” as he waits to hear the decision on which players made the active roster.
“I’m going to try to do everything that I can just to keep my mind off of everything, just spend time with family, spend time away from football period,” he said. “Just do little things to keep my mind off of it, because I can’t control what the coaches do at the end of the day.
“They’re going to make the best decisions for the team.”
While Seastrunk and Thompson flashed top end speed throughout the preseason, rookie running back Silas Redd displayed power on each of his 34 preseason carries.
Rarely going down on first contact, Redd said that with each passing week the game’s speed has become a little bit easier to handle.
“The game is starting to slow down a little bit,” he said after the Buccaneers game. “I’m able to make those cuts, those reads, and that’s when I’m able to break off those big chunks of yards.”
Redd, who recorded the last touchdown of the preseason for the Redskins, said another big factor in his progression was the support that he had around him.
“I’m happy, first and foremost, because they’re all great guys and we’re all friends,” the former USC Trojan said of the rest of the running backs. “Like I tell everyone, there’s no animosity, we want to see each other prosper so that’s was my initial thought.
“My second thought is, “Alright, I got to go make a play, too.’”
Royster, meanwhile, a four-year veteran, has added value to both the Redskins' rushing and passing attacks this preseason. He ran 13 times for 27 yards and a touchdown, while adding five receptions for 62 yards.
“I wasn’t really in a whole lot of situations where we were catching balls out of the backfield in the past couple years,” Royster said prior to Thursday's game. “It’s been good to get that stuff on tape this preseason and hopefully the coaches see it.”
As the 4 p.m. Saturday roster cut-down deadline looms, Thompson hopes that the Redskins can find a way to keep everyone after so much collective success from the running back corps.
“All the other guys – Silas, Lache, Evan – all did a great job,” he said. “I’m hoping and praying that they keep all six of us.”