The Washington Redskins’ rushing attack wasn’t as potent Sunday as it had been during the preseason, but Coach Mike Shanahan and starter Tim Hightower are confident that with a few minor adjustments, production will increase.
In the season opener, the New York Giants appeared to do a good job stringing the Redskins out and taking away cutback lanes. The Redskins ran the ball 26 times, but averaged only 2.9 yards per attempt.
Shanahan and Hightower say that although the Giants have a tough, physical front, the Redskins could have executed better. That would have translated into better production.
“There’s a lot of things that we’ve got to get corrected and cleaned up, ” said Hightower, who rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.
Shanahan agreed, but said the adjustments aren’t major. He added that a successful running game doesn’t just depend on the running back and offensive line.
“You always want to average more than 2.8 yards per carry in 25 carries. You go back, as an offense, and you look at how many opportunities you have a chance that you were just a hair away from breaking one,” said Shanahan, whose team averaged 4.7 yards a carry during the preseason. “Those will happen and I think we showed that in the preseason. Those plays will occur. The key is to let everybody know that they are accountable – everybody, tight ends, wide receivers, the offensive line, quarterbacks with his fakes. And the better you get, it will show dividends down the road.”
Hightower carried the ball on all but one running play – the exception being a two-yard gain by rookie Roy Helu. Hightower was on the field for all but two offensive snaps. The Redskins believe the fourth-year pro can be their workhorse, and Hightower relishes the role. But Shanahan said Hightower’s workload could change from week to week, depending on matchups.
“You never know. It all depends on the game plan,” Shanahan said. “It all depends on what we’re asking them to do, how much running, the length of drives. A lot of things go into making the decision when you take a guy out. The other thing that was impressive about Tim is how he blocked. He really stepped up and delivered some blows and did what you need to do as a running back to block those linebackers. He didn’t back down at all.”