This story contributed by Scott Hirsch.
Every analyst I have read about the running back position says the main decision is basically Roy Helu Jr. vs. Chris Thompson. The thinking is that since Thompson isn’t durable, Helu wins.
I believe Gruden is thinking about it in terms of Roy Helu Jr. vs. Darrell Young. Darrell Young wins because he is a much better blocker (he can take out top rushers like Demarcus Ware), he’s great to power 3rd down and short situations, and most importantly, as a former linebacker, he has something to offer on special teams. Both Helu and Young can catch out of the backfield, though I think Young is a bit better there too.
Gruden likes to keep just one back in the backfield, another reason to put Young in the ‘regular’ running back category.
Neither Young nor Helu has proven the durability to handle too many carries or catches. Young has hamstring issues that often lead to a game or two off each season. Helu could not stay healthy as a main back and had quite a light load last year.
With a small wide receiver corps, the Redskins should also favor a more punishing back like Young over the low power, low flash Helu.
The running backs to make the roster will most likely be Morris, Young, Thompson and Seastrunk and notably Redd on the Practice Squad (that makes this scenario possible, as Redd is the insurance policy for Morris who has proven incredibly durable). It’s true that Thompson has durability issues, so that puts him in a category of rely on him for about half a season. At the half season point, Seastrunk will be ready to take over the change of pace activities from Thompson. Both Thompson and Seastrunk will require defenses to plan and adjust; Helu does not. Both Thompson and Seastrunk have home run potential, something Gruden values a LOT on offense. Using a committee approach, which Gruden likes, also lowers Thompson’s chances for injury.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thompson used primarily in the screen passing game running routes that get him towards the sideline where he is extremely dangerous and much safer (all of his injuries were from attempted power runs in the middle, trying to force his way through contact).
Both Thompson and Seastrunk have Special Teams return potential. At this early point, I would put Andre Roberts down as the punt returner and Thompson down as kickoff returner. Seastrunk has too much to learn to be in the return game for at least the first half of the season.
Note that Gruden is a new coach and Seastrunk is his pick. It has also been reported that Gruden wanted to draft Thompson. No such quotes came out about Helu.
The ‘sins of the father’ should be traded to the son — hopefully the Redskins can trade Helu to the Browns for an conditional 5th round pick next year.