BALTIMORE Rob Kelley ran like his job depended on it. Samaje Perine and Kapri Bibbs did, too.
The Redskins running backs were the story in Thursday’s 30-20 loss against the Baltimore Ravens as Washington concluded its preseason and all three made their case for spots on the 53-man roster.
But it’s likely only two of them will.
The Redskins face a tough choice on which running backs to keep before they make their final cuts by 4 p.m. Saturday, and the decision did not become any easier after Thursday’s game.
Kelley ran for 49 yards on 11 carries, while Perine rushed for 30 yards on seven attempts. Bibbs had only one carry for five yards, though caught two passes for 34 yards.
All three are fighting to make the Redskins’ 53-man roster after Adrian Peterson, signed last week, likely captured the starting job. Peterson did not play.
Though Washington will make its choice based off the entire offseason, coach Jay Gruden admitted earlier in the week he would let his players “battle it out until the very end.” The organization is expected to keep four backs.
The Redskins gave Kelley the bulk of the work early. On the team’s second drive of the game, Kelley touched the ball nine of the team’s 13 plays running eight times and recording one catch. He was also the target of another pass from quarterback Kevin Hogan, but Baltimore was called for unnecessary roughness.
It was a strong bounce-back performance for Kelley, who had rushed for just 2.2 yards per carry this preseason entering the game. The 25-year-old running back, too, has a history of using the final preseason game to boost his value.
Two years ago, Kelley ran for 99 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers helping him make the roster as an undrafted free agent. That season, Kelley took over the starting job from Matt Jones and he held the role in 2017, too.
But a shaky injury history and a subpar 2017 put Kelley’s status in flux during camp. The Redskins initially drafted second-rounder Derrius Guice to revamp the team’s running game. After Guice tore his ACL, Kelley’s job seemed safe but Peterson’s arrival revived the topic.
Perine, a fourth-round pick last season out of Oklahoma, is also trying to restore his stock after a less than impressive rookie campaign. Though he was the Redskins’ leading rusher, the 22-year-old averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 2017.
On Thursday, Perine demonstrated patience, but his performance was far from perfect. In the second quarter, Perine fumbled and Baltimore recovered. Fumbling can quickly put a running back in Gruden’s doghouse, as Jones saw in 2016.
Bibbs, meanwhile, is the team’s biggest question mark. Gruden has said he prefers a backup for Chris Thompson, who has a lengthy injury history and is the team’s third-down back. But it’s hard to say how much that will play a factor in whether the Redskins keep Bibbs.
Former Redskins and Ravens quarterback Robert Griffin III did not play.