Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley will lead solid rushing attack for Redskins

It's not all about The Contract. So let's pause for a minute from the Kirk Cousins discussions -- not a whole lot new right now anyway -- and turn to something else that can help him quite a bit this season: the run game. There were a few questions on the rushing attack, so let's get to two of them.

John Keim: I combined the two questions because they’re both about the run game. And, well, I wanted to answer both.

But they’re related because there’s a reason they drafted Samaje Perine. Last year was not good enough. It wasn’t just about the numbers – Matt Jones had good numbers, too, but he was inconsistent and fumbled too much. He’s on his way out. But it does speak to the base they have for the run game; it has strong moments but must be more consistent. I don’t think there’s a coach at Redskins Park who would disagree.

I’ll point to the last six games when the Redskins were in their playoff run. They finished 2-4. In three games, they averaged more than 4.65 yards per carry; in the other three they averaged 2.95 or less. In their last two home games, they faced Carolina (ninth in yards per attempt) and the New York Giants (second). The Redskins managed a combined 67 yards on 28 carries. They just weren’t good enough vs. top run defenses and that must change.

Some of it was due to run blocking – by the group, not just the line. That means tight ends and receivers must be better -- the latter group will just because it no longer has one starter who can't do it (DeSean Jackson). He hurt defenses in other ways, but he did not help the run game. Some of it was running back inexperience. And that leads us to Robert Kelley and Perine. Kelley was excellent in his first three starts, averaging 4.79 yards per run. But in his last six, it was 3.23. Again, not good enough.

But for Kelley, that led to change. He lowered his body fat, studied the film and saw his mistakes – sometimes not trusting the blocking, for example, and cutting outside too soon. He looked more comfortable in the spring. Teammates liked what they saw in the spring of both him and Perine.

Kelley also was the guy who stood out last spring as well. So I think it can be a solid pairing. We just don’t know the impact of experience plus a slightly new body will have on Kelley. Nor do we know yet how Perine will look when the pads come on. My guess: even better. Some backs run differently, but his strength leads to broken tackles.

It’ll be a more consistent running attack than in 2016. You can throw Chris Thompson in there, though he’s obviously the third-down back and you don’t want to wear him out with too many carries or touches. And Mack Brown has fans in that locker room who predict big things for him – if he ever gets a chance.

At one point I predicted Perine would be the starter. I’m going to stick with Kelley, just to see if what he talked about in the offseason makes a difference in September. Also, if he’s improved in the passing game it’ll help him keep the job. So I’d see him, initially, getting more of the carries but with Perine having a bigger role because of his ability to be effective in short-yardage situations and in the red zone. I really like what I've heard about Perine and think he can be an effective starter someday. The good thing with him is that he can help quite a bit even in a lesser role.