Matt Jones has been gaining steam lately for the Washington Redskins. Is he the long term answer at running back?
Alfred Morris leaving the Redskins left many fans scratching their heads. Morris, who had been a fixture in Washington since 2012, was left go in the offseason in favor of Matt Jones. In three season with Washington, Morris carried the ball 1,078 times; that is a lot of wear and tear and it became evident in the 2015 season when we saw Morris start to slow down.
During the 2015 season Morris accumulated 751 yards on 202 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and one lone touchdown. Morris and Jones split carries last season. Jones had 144 for 490 yards and 3 touchdowns, but he could never quite emerge as the premier back over Morris. But there comes to a certain point where you put a horse out to pasture and move on to the next bucking bronco. Loyalty to players is nice, but NFL is a business; a business of winning and the Redskins believed Jones was the answer.
Jones has had his highs and lows in the 2016 season. Through two weeks he managed just 85 yards on 20 carries, but that has a lot to do with the play calling. Early on in the season the Redskins abandoned the run game, but in Week 3 against the Giants they forced the issue. Jones rushed 17 times for 65 yards. Since then, the Redskins have put an emphasis back into the running game and the results are 4 straight wins.
Jones recorded his second career 100 yard game against the Cleveland Browns. Jones, who had the support of his mother in the stands, who had not yet seen him play at FedEx, rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown (his first of the season).
Week 5 against the Baltimore Ravens tested Jones as he rushed 14 times for a mere 31 yards and fumbled once. After the Baltimore game head coach Jay Gruden said that Rob Kelley had earned more carries.
Oct 16, 2016; Landover, MD, USA
Kelley definitely was given the opportunity to shine Sunday against the Eagles; and he did so by piling up 59 yards on 5 carries (11.8 yards per carry), but it was Jones who emerged the star and closed the curtains. Sometimes pressure is what a player needs to relinquish their absolute best, and I believe we saw that Sunday with Jones. He finished the day with 135 yards on 16 carries, along with one touchdown. He sealed a Redskins victory with a huge 57 yard run in the fourth.
Jones obviously has a lot of growing to do, as does the offense as unit, but they’re taking the proper steps in the right direction. Kirk Cousins is the focal point of the offense, and when they perform badly, he’s going to receive the blame. But, if the Redskins can continue their quest to dominate the run game behind Jones, that pressure is elevated from Cousins and thus sets up a better passing scheme. A win win for everybody.
So is Jones the answer? Right now, absolutely. He will continue to grow into the role as a featured back as Cousins grows into the role of a franchise quarterback. It takes time for things to click, and right now the Redskins are clicking on all cylinders.