Weekend mailbag: Redskins RB questions

Been a while since we dipped into the mailbag. Once I sifted through all of the submissions that were nothing more than profane insults, I did manage to find some questions:

Zack from Atlanta asks, "Who's going to start for the Redskins at running back this week and going forward? Does anyone know?"

Dan Graziano: I'm not sure even Mike Shanahan knows who's going to start at running back "going forward," but I do expect to see Ryan Torain as the feature back Sunday in Carolina. Torain has been hands-down the most effective runner the Redskins have had this season, and last week's game against the Eagles is an easy one to throw out because they got behind so quickly and only ended up calling 12 run plays all game. My prediction (and it is only that -- Shanahan could always throw a curve) is that this will be Torain's first real test as the "starter," that he'll get most of the carries while Tim Hightower and Roy Helu get some later in the game, and that "going forward" each of the three is likely to get some run as a starter as Shanahan rides the hot hand. Remember, Torain has some injury history here, so even if he gets on a roll there's no guarantee he keeps the job all year.

Jon Espinoza from Detroit, Mich. wants to know when we can expect to see rookie cornerback Prince Amukamara on the field for the Giants.

DG: Amukamara was practicing a bit with the team this past week and is hoping to do more this week. I don't know if he'll be able to play in Week 8 against the Dolphins, but there seems to be at least some hope of that. Once he is on the field, I agree with Jon that he will help, as the secondary has played well in his absence but could use some depth at cornerback. I do think we need to temper our expectations, however, for how he'll play. He is a rookie who missed all of training camp and will, I believe, he playing with screws in his surgically repaired foot.

Jason from Bryn Mawr, Pa. asks me to "tap the brakes on the Eagles being a great team again," asserting that the victory against the Redskins wasn't all that impressive because the Redskins aren't really a good team and that the Eagles just went 2-4 against "the easiest part of their schedule."

DG: I mean, I guess, but the Eagles were supposed to be a good enough team to handle any and every part of their schedule, and the victory last week in Washington had the players on the team feeling more confident about their chances to be the kind of team they expected to be. The Redskins have a very tough defense, whether Jason thinks so or not, and any road win in the NFL is a good win. I don't think anybody was writing after last week's game that the Eagles are "a great team again," but certainly they're in better position to recover and make something of their season than they would have been had they lost that game.

And finally, Travis, who would not reveal his location, asked if there was "any chance Phillip Tanner gets on the field for the Cowboys?"

DG: With Felix Jones out, the Cowboys are going to be looking for anyone and anything that can help the run game. There's little doubt that Tashard Choice and DeMarco Murray will get the first chances to carry the load in Jones' absence, but should one of those guys get injured or should both prove ineffective, you could see preseason star Tanner get a stray carry here and there and maybe a chance to show what he can do. Short answer: He's still pretty far down the depth chart, but not as far as he was a week ago.