If Thursday’s preseason opener is any indication, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden will lean heavily on the running game this season.
He starts with a proven commodity in Alfred Morris, the 5-foot-10, 224-pound Pro Bowler with a bulldozer’s knack for plowing through defenders. And though Roy Helu Jr. is the presumptive backup, Gruden is staging what’s proving a highly competitive casting call for the job.
Two in particular declared themselves worthy contenders in Thursday’s 23-6 victory over New England — Silas Redd and Lache (pronounced “Lake”) Seastrunk, who hadn’t garnered as much attention as Helu or second-year player Chris Thompson through the early days of camp.
Six different backs shared 42 carries in piling up 177 rushing yards against the Patriots. (Quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy each ran the ball once, with Cousins gaining two yards and McCoy losing two.)
Seastrunk (5-9, 200), a sixth-round draft pick from Baylor, had the lion’s share of carries, 12, averaging an impressive 5.3-yards per clip. He also had Washington’s two longest gains by a back, both in the fourth quarter: a 21-yard scamper around the left end, and a 19-yard gain around the right end.
Call that lightning.
Redd (5-10, 200), a rookie free agent who played at Penn State and Southern California, earned his yardage the hard way, primarily up the middle, carrying nine times for 45 yards (5.0 yards per carry).
Call that thunder.
None of the other backs jockeying for roster spots who had at least four carries Thursday — Helu, Thompson or Evan Royster — averaged more than 3.3 yards on the ground. But Helu caught two of three balls thrown his way, stretching one for a 16-yard gain.
Gruden singled out the two rookies afterward, saying of Redd: “Between the tackles, he’s a good power runner. He’s got great vision. He’s shown [that] in practice so far, and we want to see him carry it over into the game. And it did today. “
On Seastrunk: “Lache is obviously known for his big play ability. He popped a couple again today…. You can’t really tell in practice because it’s just a thud. But it’s good to see him get out there.”
The combination of a second power runner and a speedy scat back is clearly enticing.
“We’d like to have thunder and lightning, so to speak,” Gruden said, “or just have a couple thunders. It doesn’t matter. Alfred is going to get his bulk of carries, and he’s going to need to have a rest every now and then. Whoever that guy is – whether it’s Roy, whether it’s Silas, whether it’s Lache, whether it’s Chris Thompson – that is to be determined.”
Gruden voiced satisfaction with the blocking Thursday but said he’d have to study the film to properly assess individual play, particularly in the interior.
Mike McGlynn, who’s penciled in as Kory Lichtensteiger’s backup at center, didn’t play because of back spasms. Tevita Stevens shouldered duties in his stead.