Reporting Grant Paulsen
The Redskins’ running game is operating as smoothly as a pimply-faced high school freshman at his first party.
Washington ranks 31st out of 32 teams in rushing offense, compiling an average of 86.7 yards-a-game on the ground. In the team’s last three games, the Redskins have rushed for just 26, 52 and 61 yards. In that time, Washington has managed a total of 20 points while scoring just one touchdown on 33 drives.
There is a direct correlation between the disappearance of Washington’s running game and the team’s inability to sustain drives and score points.
In the Redskins’ last three games, Washington has gone three-and-out eight times and punted five others. During that time, over a 33 drive sample size, Washington is averaging just 22 yards each time it possesses the football.
Head coach Mike Shanahan is known for masterminding one of the most consistently successful rushing schemes in NFL history. His zone-blocking, offensive-front was praised for its incessant success in Denver. It almost didn’t matter who was running the ball for the Broncos during Shanahan’s tenure, Denver’s tailback was going to rush for 100-yards per game and 1,000-yards each season.
But the success of Shanahan’s running game hasn’t carried over to Washington, a topic that came up on Thursday afternoon at Redskins Park.
“I think we’ll do that here,” Shanahan said when asked about the ground-attack he designed and executed with the Broncos. “This is not an excuse, by no means, but you miss a guy like Kory Lichtensteiger, who probably was the most consistent guy a year ago.”
Lichtensteiger, Washington’s starting left guard when the season began, was lost for the season when he tore his ACL and MCL ligaments on Oct. 16. The Redskins have lost four straight games since, rushing the ball effectively in just one of them.
“Chris Cooley is probably as good a blocking tight end as we’ve had in the league,” Shanahan continued. Cooley was also lost for the season in Washington’s Oct. 16 lost to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Redskins have struggled to efficiently rush outside since.
“We will get that running game back, I promise you. I’ve been doing it over 20 years and that’s our trademark. But any time you shuffle guys in and out, you’ve got to keep on working.”
The Redskins have used four different offensive line combinations in the last five weeks. If this week’s mid-week injury report is any indication, it looks like Washington could be preparing to start it’s fifth different combination of linemen in a six-game span.
Just this season the Redskins have used two left tackles, three left guards, two centers and two right tackles.
Left guard Maurice Hurt, a 2011 seventh-round pick forced into a starting role because of injuries, has missed consecutive practices with a knee ailment. Tackles Jammal Brown and Sean Locklear are dealing with groin and ankle injuries respectively, and both were limited during Thursday’s workout.
“Everything starts up front, on offense or defense,” Shanahan said. “If you don’t have a good offensive front, you’re not going to win in the National Football League. You’re not going to be consistent.”
Shanahan’s point is accurate, and the Redskins are proving that. The team’s offensive line isn’t playing well enough right now and because of that Washington’s offense hasn’t been able to help the team win games.
The Redskins’ offense is now averaging 15.1 points per game, ranking 27th in the NFL in yards-per-contest. The last time Washington ranked that low in total offense at the end of a season was 2004.