Jay Gruden: We're taking 'gamble' on RB Matt Jones

When the Washington Redskins didn't attempt to bring back Alfred Morris this season, the message was clear: It's Matt Jones' backfield.

Coach Jay Gruden said this week the team has confidence the second-year runner can shoulder the load.

"Matt played well and we're very excited about him," Gruden said, via CSN Mid-Atlantic. "We let a heck of a running back, and a very productive running back, go because we have Matt."

During his rookie campaign Jones displayed power between the tackles, speed to get to the edge, burst at the second level and size to break tackles. However, the 6-foot-1, 231-pound back proved inconsistent as a rookie. He missed holes, was stuffed often in the backfield -- leading to a 3.4 yards per carry average -- and he had a fumbling problem.

Gruden is well aware that it's a risk to put all of Washington's apples in the Jones basket.

"We need him to protect the ball a little bit more," Gruden said. "He's a big, strong, powerful back that I think can handle the workload; time will tell on that. We're taking a bit of a gamble here, but based on our professional opinion, we believe he can handle it and be very, very effective at it, toting the rock."

Jones owns the size-speed combo coaches love and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him a three-down candidate, if he puts the rookie struggles behind him.

Gruden left zero doubt Jones will assume the No. 1 role.

"That's what we envision, yes. He's got the size. I mean, he's got the measurables, that's for sure. That doesn't always translate, so we'll see. We like Matt. We think he's a smart football player and he runs very, very hard. Now we just have to make sure the ball security is there (because) he can catch the ball out the backfield. He's a very good solid football player that we have high hopes for."

Jones should be ready for offseason workouts after undergoing surgery for a hip injury that caused him to miss the final three games of the Redskins' season.

The shifty Chris Thompson will provide a change-of-pass pass-catcher out of the backfield. With little other depth on the roster, expect the Redskins to add another veteran this summer and possibly a mid-to-late-round rookie in the draft.

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