Darrel Young leaves Cowboys safety Barry Church on the turf without his helmet on a run last December. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Between now and training camp, Mike Jones takes a closer look at players who find themselves competing for key roles this season, or are in position battles this preseason.

Over the course of the past four seasons, fullback Darrel Young has proved his worth to the Washington Redskins both as a lead blocker and on special teams.

Former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan often proclaimed that Young ranked among the best fullbacks in the NFL.

In the past two seasons, Young helped pave the way for a rushing attack that ranked among the league leaders.For his career, Young himself has averaged 4.2 yards per carry and 11.8 yards per catch. Last season, Young rushed for a career-high three touchdowns, and also averaged another high of 17.8 yards per reception. He also made key contributions on Washington’s special teams coverage units

But now, with Mike Shanahan and Kyle Shanahan out, and Jay Gruden in, and bringing with him a new special teams coordinator as well, Young faces an uncertain future despite having two years left on a three-year, $3.97 million contract.

Gruden’s offense in Cincinnati scarcely featured a fullback. And, because of the versatility of tight ends Jordan Reed, Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul, even Kyle Shanahan opted to use more two-tight end sets. At times, one lined up at fullback, or was sent in motion and on a pass route out of the backfield similar to what Young would’ve run.

This training camp and preseason, Young must prove his worth in an offense that will feature a lot of similarities to last year’s attack while also introducing new features brought in by Gruden.

Young says although he knows no player is ever really safe in the NFL, he believes there is a place for him in Washington’s modified offense.

He believes the retention of offensive line coach Chris Foerster, who has a large role in planning the rushing attack, and the promotion of tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator bode well for him.

Both coaches understand Young’s capabilities, the fifth-year player says. He also believes that he has a better skill set than the fullbacks that Gruden opted not to use in Cincinnati. During offseason practices, Young remained involved in the offense both as a blocker and occasional receiver.

Young also sees special teams as another opportunity for him to help lock up a roster spot. With Ben Kotwica proclaiming that he is “taking all applicants,” Young relishes the chance to display his talents and retain his role on those units.

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

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