Washington Redskins

Jawan Jamison to Redskins: How Does Running Back Fit with Washington?

Dec 28, 2012; Orlando, FL, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Jawan Jamison (23) rushes for yardage against the Virginia Tech Hokies during the second quarter of the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl at the Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Douglas Jones-USA TODAY Sports
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistApril 27, 2013

Mike Shanahan just couldn't resist, could he? He has seemingly never seen a running back he didn't like and used the Washington Redskins' final draft pick on Jawan Jamison out of Rutgers.

Jamison becomes the fourth running back drafted by the Redskins since Shanahan took charge in 2010. The diminutive workhorse has a decent chance of making the team.

That may seem like a bold statement given the number of players vying for the position. The Redskins already boast outstanding 2012 draftee Alfred Morris. Behind him are 2011 rookies Evan Royster and Roy Helu Jr. And of course Shanahan took a runner in this year's draft ahead of Jamison, using a fifth-round pick on Chris Thompson.

That's quite a crowd for Jamison to work his way through. However, he might gain the attention of his new coaches thanks to a few key attributes.

Jamison's attributes perfectly fit Shanahan's zone-based ground schemes. They include an ability to identify rushing lanes and cutback opportunities.

That's essential to success in a system designed to create those kind of openings.

Jamison is also decisive in the backfield. Once he sees his gap, he takes it. The result is that he's often at the second level of a defense before the first tackle hits him.

That's another important quality for the Shanahan-coached running game. Yes, runners are required to show some patience while cutback lanes develop. However, what separates great zone runners from merely good ones is how decisively they attack those lanes once they appear.

It's why Shanahan hasn't traditionally placed a high value on speed in his primary running backs. They gain enough yards before contact.

So Jamison has the right style and temperament for Shanahan's offense, but will that be enough? It's unlikely a coach so successful at unearthing talented runners in late rounds would choose one without a very good reason.

Instead of asking how Jamison fits, perhaps the question should be: What does his selection mean for the futures of Helu and Royster?

Both had strong outings in 2011. However, 2012 wasn't so kind to the young duo. Helu missed 13 games on injured reserve, while Royster had to settle for whatever carries Morris left him.

Drafting two running backs for the second time in two years seems to indicate Shanahan is ready to freshen up the position.

In Thompson, he found an option-style back with real third-down skills. He'll certainly help Robert Griffin III.

Jamison could be the back to share some of the load with Morris. He carried the Rutgers offense in 2012, gaining 1,075 yards.

If Jamison makes a strong impression in camp, he'll get carries in the backfield once the real action begins.

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