Redskins positional glance: running back

Taking a look forward, while seeing what went wrong or right during the season, for each position. Today: running backs.

Under contract for 2015:Darrel Young, Alfred Morris, Chris Thompson, Silas Redd.

Pending free agents: Roy Helu.

Best bargain: Well, no one counts for a lot against the salary cap, so they are all sort of bargains. Morris was one of the best bargains on the roster the past three seasons -- he counted $600,775 against the cap last season. He’s a free agent after 2015. In three years, he has rushed for 3,962 yards while counting a combined $1,523,325 against the cap. That’s a bargain.

The review: The Washington Redskins continued to use their outside zone, but they also mixed in more power runs than they had the previous two seasons. The run game was too inconsistent, partly because they were trying to marry two running philosophies and because there were some run-blocking issues -- by the line, but also by the tight ends -- not to mention Morris was not as effective early in the season. At times his track to the hole was off, and he wasn’t as strong after contact. Through Week 9, he averaged 1.75 yards after contact. However, Morris was much better from that point forward, averaging 2.34 yards after contact to finish with 2.00 for the season (tying his career best). Morris' 4.1 yards per carry were a career low. Helu was effective; more on him below. Young was in and out depending on the game plan. I like Young, but the hard part for him is always this: If you give him the ball more, it takes away from players such as Morris, DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, etc., -- all of whom are bigger threats. But Young helps and is a good surprise weapon.

The outlook: The Redskins need to figure out the direction they want to take the run game. Do not assume that line coach Bill Callahan was brought here just because he runs power. Callahan is well versed in the zone blocking schemes and, in fact, that’s what Dallas used quite a bit of last season. But he does have a strong power background as well. Morris fits in well with what Callahan likes to do, by the way, and is still an effective running back, though limited as a pass-catcher. Thompson was intriguing last summer, but to remain that way means you haven't done anything yet. I like what he potentially adds: a young guy with speed who could be effective in the open field. The problem is, Thompson too often was impatient on his runs and on screens; a split-second pause could have made the difference in a handful of plays -- and Thompson is aware of this. The Redskins and Thompson hope that he’ll learn from those experiences. If Helu leaves, Thompson would be in the mix to handle his role -- but durability would prevent him from being even a one- or two-game replacement. Redd will be interesting to watch next summer because of his ability, in a small sampling, to make defenders miss. It's always wise to add a running back or several in the offseason via free agency or the draft. It does not have to be costly, either. The Redskins (still) need more speed from this position. Thompson has it, but needs to use it well.

Stat that needs improving: The Redskins ranked 16th in the NFL at 3.98 yards on first-down carries, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The league average is 4.14 -- seven of the top 10 teams in first down carries posted winning records.

Key question: Will they re-sign Helu? He averaged 11.4 yards per catch and 5.4 yards per carry. Helu is an inconsistent blocker in pass protection. The Redskins could use a more dynamic back, but they could do worse than Helu as well. He has good size, but durability has been an issue with him. After the season Helu said he was looking forward to free agency.

Potential free agent options: The Redskins had interest in third-down back Darren Sproles last offseason (but not in a trade). Would they have interest in someone such as C.J. Spiller, who will be a free agent? Though he’s coming off an injury, he would be costly and they wouldn’t need him as a full-time back with Morris around. But he is an all-around back who could also help in the return game. Still, it’s never wise to spend a lot on a running back. Frank Gore will be mentioned, too, because new general manager Scot McCloughan drafted him in San Francisco. He would be solid insurance for Morris, and the draft has plenty of options, too.