Over the first four days of training camp, almost every running back sprinted an extra 10 yards after the whistle blew. It's a maxim preached by running backs coach Randy Jordan over the years, but it's also an indication of the impression each one of the seven running backs on the Redskins roster wants to make.
With every carry being evaluated, the running backs are aiming to stay consistent while showing they can still pop on tape. After Chris Thompson and Derrius Guice, the questions marks regarding how the rest of the group -- Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs, Byron Marshall and Martez Carter -- will shake out remain, and the competition is starting to heat up.
"Yeah I think, that’s a great benefit that we have here,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “We have a different style of backs. It’s tough, you know you talk about first, second down backs, we got three to four of those guys. We have guys that can come out of the backfield and protect, we have three of those guys. We got a couple guys who can do a little bit of everything. So, it’s very interesting group and very exciting group to me. They’re all great kids, they all work extremely hard but at the end of the day it’s going to be about the guy who protects the football, the guy who can protect the quarterback and makes the tough runs, runs after contact, and we’ll let it play out and go from there."
Undrafted rookies have examples on the Redskins for how to forge an NFL career. Seeing how Kelley, Bibbs and running backs coach Randy Jordan have all made their mark in the league, Carter, an undrafted signing, has soaked up every piece of advice he can get to make his case for a roster spot.
“It’s not so much on the field, it’s off the field," Carter said. “Getting in your playbook, standing up in meetings, just doing all the extra stuff, man. They know I can play ball or else I wouldn’t be here. It’s kind of the mechanical things and things that I can catch on off the field.”
Thursday’s practice saw Guice taking a chunk of the first team reps and others rotating around. According to Guice, that has made it difficult to tell who the No.1 running back is right now. Kelley had symptoms of heat exhaustion during Friday’s practice and Thompson was working on recovery, which allowed Bibbs to take some snaps with the first team.
“If it’s not a mental rep, Coach Jordan always say don’t count your reps, make your reps count," Carter said. "So every time I get in, I just try to capitalize on a good rep, whether one, two, four, five, whatever the case may be, man. I just try to make that rep count.”
Whenever meetings off the field occur, the room is very light and full of laid back personalities, last year's leading rusher Samaje Perine said. When it’s time to focus on football, however, everyone is locked in on learning how they can improve from each carry.
The group has stressed the importance of not thinking about whether they are going to make the final roster or not, but just going out and playing their style of football. The anxiety of making the cut can take a toll on certain players, but those backs clear that from their heads when they strap on their helmets.
“I’ve been in this spot for three years now,” running back Byron Marshall said. “Rookie year, coming as a free agent you don’t know how it’s going to work. Second year, coming in as a free agent with them drafting backs you don’t know how it’s going to work and this year it’s the same thing. It’s more worrisome than anything. The more you worry the more you think about if you’re going to make the team or not so I’d rather just be relaxed, play loose and just be myself, and if it works out here it works out, great because I like it here. If not, then it’s not what God had in plan for me. I just take everything with a grain of salt.”
Even when Redskins have to make cuts in their offensive backfield, training camp will not be a waste for those who aren’t on the final 53. Bibbs was waived by San Francisco after being traded from Denver last season, but managed to impress Washington’s coaches to earn another NFL chance.
Seeing what each running back brings to the team, Bibbs is confident that every player in the group will get their pro opportunity either playing for the Redskins or playing on an opposing team.
“I think we have the best room in this league,” Bibbs said. “I think every single one of our guys on our team should be on an NFL roster this year, and I love to say that. I love the fact that if one of our guys leaves out of this room I know I’m going to see him again. I know I’m going to be able to walk across the field and shake his hand because I see the talent, I see the way everybody runs on this team. If they’re not in the league, then something is a problem.”