“We drafted him with that intent,” Gruden said when asked if Jones could move into the starting position.
The coach went on to say, “He’s a big, powerful runner. The big thing about Matt is, we’ve got to keep him healthy and work on ball security — those are the two things in the offseason. I know Randy Jordan will harp on that, and getting his pad level down a little bit. But health, ball security, those are the two biggest things.”
Jones, who last season averaged 3.4 yards a carry and 16 yards per catch while playing behind Alfred Morris, actually is Washington’s only running back currently under contract for next season. His brightest moments included a 123-yard, two-touchdown day against St. Louis and a 187 yards from scrimmage against New Orleans. However, Jones also fumbled the ball five times during the season.
Morris is headed toward free agency, and the Redskins sound content to let him depart after four seasons as their starter and a 2015 campaign in which he lost his effectiveness. Third-down back Chris Thompson is an exclusive-rights free agent and seems likely to return. The team also has some interest in re-signing Pierre Thomas, who signed late in the season.
However, Jones is the most well-rounded and best-suited to handle the load as the workhorse back.
Jones missed the final two games of the regular season and Washington’s playoff loss to Green Bay because of a hip injury. After the season, he saw a hip specialist and had a surgical procedure to correct the injury, which also involved his groin area, Gruden said.
It’s expected that Jones will have completed his rehabilitation and regained full strength by the start of offseason practices.
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