Redskins Running Game Remains Muddled

Redskins Running Game Remains Muddled
December 4, 2010, 4:04 pm
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Friday, December 3, 2010, 11:02 a.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff writer
CSNwashington.com

Cleaning out the notebook, starting with the Redskins' running game ...

Unknowns Abound In Running Game
Keiland Williams. James Davis. Maybe Andre Brown in his Redskins debut. Heck, possibly Ryan Torain.

The candidates to get carries for the Redskins against the New York Giants are numerous. The only thing we do know is it wont be Clinton Portis lining up in the backfield.

Everything else is muddled.

The Redskins rank 26th in rush offense (90.7 yards) and have been out-rushed 1,447-998 even though those opponents have only 48 more carries.

Last week against Minnesota, the Redskins rushed 13 times (a season low) for 29 yards.

Not getting the running game going was a huge factor, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. We felt good about it in the first half. The Vikings are pretty stout against the run but you definitely have to keep them off balance.

A sign of balance: In the first half, the Redskins had 11 rushes (not counting a Donovan McNabb fumble) and 19 passes.

A sign of no balance: In the second half, the Redskins had two rushes and 18 McNabb drop-backs.

Its tough to maintain a running game when you have only 20 plays, Shanahan said.

How the Redskins divided the playing was also interesting.

Williams played the first 16 snaps. From there, though, Williams played 19 snaps and Davis 16 snaps.

We started Keiland and we just wanted to give James a shot, Shanahan said. We never did have a chance to get Davis going. You cant get a full evaluation until you get a chance to get a guy in a rhythm. One some of the carries, he didnt have much room.

The Redskins cant afford to be one-dimensional against the Giants pass rush.

The running game opens up a lot of the things we do, McNabb said. When you have a guy or two thats been there all throughout the year and you know what youre getting, that does wonders for an offense. When you rotate different guys in there due to injury, its tough.

Work Pays Off For Austin
Rookie receiver Terrence Austin is expected to play his second game Sunday since being promoted from the practice squad.

The seventh round pick was a somewhat surprising cut in September because he showed flashes during the preseason of helping the Redskins receiver-needy offense. Austin quickly re-focused after clearing waivers.

It really wasnt hard, he said. I understand you have to work hard in order to get what you want. I just went out there and kept working.

Austin said the practice squad players treat each Wednesday, Thursday and Friday like a game day.

You definitely have to do that, he said. You need to play at a high intensity all the time. I was going against the best guys every day. I got better learning from that.

Said receiver Anthony Armstrong: When I was on the practice squad, I used to love ticking the starters off and getting into the end zone in practice and making it a game for me and the rest of the practice squad guys.

Austin played four snaps against Minnesota and was promoted in part because he can play special teams, something Joey Galloway wasnt available to do.

We kept him here because we felt he would be ready anytime we needed him, Kyle Shanahan said. Once we lost some guys, we knew Terrence would help us at receiver.

Pass Rush Help Needed
Linebacker Brian Orakpo leads the Redskins with 8.5 sacks but no other player has more than Albert Haynesworths 2.5 sacks.

As a team, the Redskins have 22 sacks.

I would like the total to be a little more, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said. For Brian to have 8.5 is kind of amazing because people are sliding to him, chipping him they know where hes at. You always need 2-3 pass rushers to have a good defense.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning hasnt been sacked in four consecutive games, but offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said Orakpo warrants extra attention.

Hes somebody you have to be very in-tune of what hes at and you hope to your better blockers on him because he can be a difficult match-up for running backs, Gilbride said.

Opportunity For Barnes
For six weeks, Kevin Barnes quietly worked knowing he probably wouldnt be in uniform, stuck behind a log-jam at cornerback. But Carlos Rogers hamstring injuries have produced a chance for Barnes, the second-year player from Maryland.

Barnes played nine snaps against the Vikings and is expected to the third corner against New York.

In this league, everybody on the roster usually has an opportunity to play at some point, Haslett said. Sooner or later, somebody has to give him an opportunity to play to see if he can play in this league or cant he. Some guys dont get that opportunity with a team and go someplace else and be a star.

Haslett gave Barnes passing marks for his play last week.

Hes got a lot of good qualities height, speed, hes smart, Haslett said. Hopefully that will pay off into him being a productive football player.

Contact Ryan at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com