Redskins say Matt Jones can be their primary back, but must fix issues

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Washington Redskins remain confident in running back Matt Jones. They also remain adamant about what he must do to become their top back.

“We’ve got to keep him healthy and work on ball security,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

Jones lost four fumbles as a rookie and missed the final three games of the season with a hip injury. He underwent surgery recently, but Gruden called it a minor procedure in the groin area and said Jones should be ready for organized-team-activity workouts this spring. Jones admitted after his rookie season that he'd learned a big lesson about the need to take better care of his body, via massages and extra stretching.

But the Redskins liked what they saw out of Jones, a third-round pick last spring, to view him as a potential starter. Jones rushed for 490 yards as a rookie, averaging 3.4 yards per carry. He averaged 3.04 yards on his final 70 runs.

The Redskins have plenty of questions in the backfield. Alfred Morris is a free agent and though sources have said he’s unlikely to return -- and president Bruce Allen said they would let him test the market if nothing else -- Gruden maintained that Morris' departure is not a done deal.

However, if he leaves, the Redskins would need to add another back or two. Chris Thompson is coming off shoulder surgery and has been dogged by durability questions. Pierre Thomas is another option, but if possible the Redskins would like to get younger.

As a primary option, though, Jones appears to be the favorite.

“We drafted him with that intent. He's a big, physical runner,” Gruden said.

General manager Scot McCloughan agreed with his coach.

“But he’s got to do it,” McCloughan said of Jones. “And he has to hold onto the ball. He’s a young guy who has a lot of talent and really good skills. I feel very comfortable with him going into the season fighting for the No. 1 job for sure.”