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Kyle Shanahan not worried about style when looking for backup to Morris

Kyle Shanahan said his only must-have in a No. 2 back is production. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said talent and production will decide who he selects as his No. 2 running back, and that style doesn’t carry much importance.

Alfred Morris returns as Washington’s unquestioned starter a year after he came out of nowhere to rush for a franchise single-season record 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns as a rookie. But the Redskins entered the offseason looking to upgrade the depth at that position.

With Morris standing out as a bruising runner, the popular belief is that Washington could use a change-of-pace back with a different style – speed and pass-catching ability – to help keep defenses off balance and make the offense more explosive, while also ensuring Morris (who logged 335 carries last season) remains fresh.

The team drafted Florida State’s Chris Thompson, a speedy runner with good hands. The Redskins also drafted Rutgers’ Jawan Jamison – a hard-running, yet elusive undersize back.

And the team already has third-year pro Evan Royster – a smooth runner who picks up yardage in chunks, but lacks breakaway speed.

Fellow 2011 draftee Roy Helu Jr. returns to action after missing the bulk of the 2012 season with Achilles’ tendon and toe injuries. If healthy, his speed and pass-catching ability would seem to complement Morris well.

Fourth-year back Keiland Williams excelled as a third-down back for Washington as a rookie and rejoined the team midway through last season. Tristan Davis – a solid yet unflashy back who was a member of the practice squad in 2011 and injured for all of last season – also is a part of the competition.

While some are more similar than others, none of the backs behind Morris have identical games, which could be a good thing. Shanahan said that doesn’t matter, however. He simply wants a backup that can offer similar production to Morris.

“My main thing is there’s no absolutes in anything,” the offensive coordinator said. “There are some ideal situations you would like. My main thing is, if Alf is not in there, I want the best running back who’s not Alf in there. I don’t care – he doesn’t have to be his exact opposite. Just ’cause Alf’s a guy who runs hard and stuff, doesn’t mean that we have got to go get a guy who’s just fast and different than him. I want the best back, the second best back in who is not Alf if we’re running the ball. You can get some guys who can isolate maybe in the pass game a little different and use them a little differently, but when you’re spelling a guy, you want a guy who comes in and moves the chains and does the exact same things he does and we can keep those same yards per carry and stay on the field.”

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @john_keim (starting July 1) | @D3Keith | @Insider | @PostSports

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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