The Redskins don't have a primary running back, and they have yet to name a starter for Sunday's season opener against the New Orleans Saints. They do have three backs that can contribute in some way.
The team could choose the reliable Evan Royster. They could go with Alfred Morris, which would make the sixth-round pick a starter. Or they could opt for Roy Helu, a legitimate outside threat.
The truth is the running game is often determined by the success of the offensive line. If the line is successful, then running lanes will be available. Togetherness up front leads to success from the backs. Each lineman must be comfortable with how the other linemen operate on cut blocks and combination blocks.
"I like what I've seen in practice. I like what I've seen in the game," Coach Mike Shanahan said. "Each guy's got a little bit different quality. It will be interesting to see these guys compete."
Let's take a look at these three backs:
In training camp, the rookie from Florida Atlantic emerged as one of the best stories. His running style, which includes, good body lean and low pad level, lends itself to positive yardage. This type of running typically transfers over from preseason to regular season games. He lost yards on only three of 39 rushing attempts this summer, and on 20 of those carries he gained at least 4 yards. Morris ran the 40-yard dash in 4.68 seconds at the combine, which means he's not fast. But he makes quick cuts because he anticipates pressure well.
Morris struggled picking up the blitz. In college he was only responsible for half the field. Now he must pick up blitzes from both sides.
Royster makes decisive cuts and has excellent vision. For this reason, the inside zone runs fit him well. He does a good job of getting yards after contact, and has improved in pass protection. Royster's challenge is balance and speed. Both stopped him from having any runs of more than 28 yards last season. But, it's difficult to ignore his 5.9 yards per carry in 2011.
In 2011, he carried the ball 96 times during a four-game stretch. But then in the next two games, he rushed the ball a total of four times. It's difficult to imagine him being ready for a full load.
But, Helu shakes more defenders. He's better than the other two on screen passes and running the outside stretch zone. Last season, he was inconsistent in pass protection, but he has shown improvement.