The Washington Redskins have made a decision about the future of their backfield, and they believe that their second-year back can handle the full-time load. Matt Jones will be the Redskins’ Week 1 starter pending an unforeseen offseason circumstance.
Veteran Alfred Morris walked away last week, signing a two-year, $3.5 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins made no attempt to re-sign the fifth-year tailback, making it clear that their plan has always been to move forward with Jones.
Jones eclipsed the 100-yard mark just once in 2015, but the team loves his running style. He runs well between the tackles, displays edge speed and can break tackles. Despite his skills, it’s a great risk because of his inconsistency and problems holding onto the football. Head coach Jay Gruden acknowledged the risk but is still very confident in Jones.
“We need him to protect the ball a little bit more,” Gruden told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “We’re taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock.”
Morris didn’t have much more individual success last season as he ran for 100-plus yards just twice in 17 games. Morris’ rookie season in 2012 was his best with 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. He ran for just 751 yards and a single touchdown in 2015.
Washington selected Jones in the third round of the most recent draft and had very high hopes for the former Florida Gator. The Redskins drafted him based on skills and potential rather than production. He had explosive games in Gainesville but struggled with consistency, much like in his rookie season.
He’ll have to improve on his 3.4 yards-per-carry average last season now that he’s the feature back. Quarterback Kirk Cousins will be returning, and if he has a similar season to his last, that will take a lot of pressure off of Jones. But Jones also has to do the same for Cousins if the team wants to be successful. They won a bad division last season, but don’t expect a 9-7 record to get it done again in 2016.