ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Matt Jones will miss the rest of the preseason with a left shoulder injury, but the Washington Redskins hope their top running back will be ready for the start of the regular season.
Coach Jay Gruden said Jones will be held out of the Redskins' final two preseason games after spraining his shoulder Friday against the New York Jets. Gruden said Jones has already made significant strides since the injury and has ''high hopes'' he'll be ready by the regular-season opener Sept. 12 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
''We think the recovery time will be pretty quick,'' Gruden said Monday. ''He could be a little sore, but I think he's going to be fine.''
Jones ran for 490 yards and three touchdowns and caught another touchdown in 13 games as a rookie last season before going down with a hip injury. He became the Redskins' No. 1 back after they let Alfred Morris leave for Dallas in free agency.
The 23-year-old is getting stim treatments for blood flow and worked out on the sideline during practice Monday. He said he was feeling much better and isn't worried about missing out on game action.
''I don't feel like this is even a setback, because I take mental reps on the field,'' Jones said. ''It feels better knowing I did it in the preseason. I'm not saying that preseason doesn't matter, I do want to still get better, but I've got some time to get ready for the first game.''
Washington had little experience at the running back position even before Jones got hurt. He and third-down back Chris Thompson are the only players on the roster with NFL game experience, and the Redskins will lean heavily on rookies Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall and second-year player Mack Brown the rest of the preseason.
Kelley replaced Jones as the top back against New York and could start Friday in the third preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.
''I think he and Keith will get the lion's share of the carries,'' Gruden said. ''We want to see them in game situations against a good Buffalo team.''
Even if Jones is back by the opener, all eyes are on Kelley, an undrafted rookie out of Tulane, and Marshall, a seventh-round pick out of Georgia, to see what they can do. Teammates are impressed by their habits in practice, but Friday night at FedEx Field in the exhibition dress rehearsal for real games is a different animal.
''I'm excited to see how they do, especially with a prime-time opportunity like they're getting,'' said left tackle Trent Williams, who's set to make his preseason debut against the Bills after battling a sore right knee. ''We have a lot of faith in those backs. They show a lot of promise, they've got a lot of talent, but obviously they've got to put in the field on Friday and we'll have a better picture of it after that.''
Gruden has given no indication so far that Washington will look externally for running back depth, and Kelley, Marshall and Brown will get chances to keep it that way.
''That's why we're here,'' Kelley said. ''That's why you have backups, for somebody to step up and take the place of that starter while he's down. When he gets back we'll be back doing our role on the team.''
Quarterback Kirk Cousins, who was held out of the Jets game to rest, recalled his own experience as a young player and hopes to help the young running backs Friday as they fill in for Jones.
''It stretches you as a player and it's going to get you to where you need to be that much faster,'' Cousins said. ''I think it's a really good thing for them. There may be some growing pains here and there, but that's what the preseason is for: to see what they can do, what they can't do.''
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