RICHMOND – As he and his players work to develop an identity on offense, Jay Gruden has stressed that diversity will be key for Washington’s success.
That’s why the team this offseason added wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts to go with Pierre Garcon, running back Alfred Morris and promising young tight end Jordan Reed. But that’s not enough. Gruden and his coaches also are trying to find a running back capable of serving as a reliable pass-catcher for Robert Griffin III.
Morris has topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. But the lack of a backfield receiving threat has represented a weakness for some time now for Washington. Last season, the team’s backs combined for only 45 catches. A total of 17 running backs single-handedly recorded more than 45 catches in 2013.
“We know we didn’t have an effective out-of-the-backfield passing attack last year. It’s safe to say that,” Griffin said. “Everyone from Alfred on down has done a good job of catching the ball in OTAs and out here at training camp. That will be an emphasis for us. It makes us more versatile as an offense when defenses have to account for things. You saw that today with the zone-read as we mixed in some more of that. But, getting the backs out of the backfield, running them on routes, running them on screens instead of just saying, ‘Here Alfred, 25 pops a game, go get us 120 [yards], 130.’”
One of the goals of this training camp and preseason involves changing that. Morris has said he would like to have a greater role in the passing game, but coaches also would like to find a player capable of capable of spelling Morris on third downs. Fourth-year veterans Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster, second-year pro Chris Thompson and rookies Lache Seastrunk and Silas Redd all find themselves fighting for the role of third-down back.
If the Redskins find a back capable of both catching passes and picking up blitzes, Washington’s offense will ascend to another level.
“You always have a play-action and the check-downs and the verticals and the check-downs, and all those backs can do that,” Griffin said. “But it opens things up for us, and the quarterback as well if you can have those guys out in the passing routes, and sometimes they’re the prime receiving option and you also have four other eligible receivers. … You’ve got to be able to work those in in all situations.”
Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to email@example.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.
Washington is next on the field for a 4:10 p.m. walkthrough. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.
Also from The Post: