Players, Coaches Find Ground Game Lacking

By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 12, 2007

The development of quarterback Jason Campbell has been a good sign for the Washington Redskins. The passing game was so productive last Sunday that Campbell was named the NFC offensive player of the week for his strong performance in a 34-3 victory over the Detroit Lions.

The running game hasn't been as successful. In the past three games, the Redskins have rushed 95 times for 330 yards. That's an average of only 3.5 yards per carry, well below the output Al Saunders, associate head coach-offense, would prefer for a team that's committed to having a power running game.

"We'd like to be around 4.8 per carry," Saunders said.

The Green Bay Packers, whom the Redskins play Sunday at Lambeau Field, are 4-1 despite averaging only 3.3 yards per rush, 28th in the league.

The Redskins rushed for 191 yards in their season-opening victory over the Miami Dolphins, but starting right tackle Jon Jansen suffered a season-ending leg injury in that game.

The following week, in a 20-12 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington rushed for 130 yards, but starting right guard Randy Thomas suffered a triceps injury. The Redskins rushed for only 82 yards in a loss to the New York Giants and 118 yards in the victory over the Lions.

The absence of Jansen and Thomas obviously has affected the running game, the Redskins said, but they have to improve in that area, especially with five of the next seven games on the road.

"As an offensive line, I think we did a good job in [pass] protection last week," said guard Jason Fabini, who replaced Thomas. "On the run game, I'd say there were some things I'd like to have back. I know that's where I need to try to improve this week."

Running back Clinton Portis leads the Redskins in rushing with 66 carries for 299 yards (a 4.5-yard average) and three touchdowns. Ladell Betts -- who rushed for a team-high 1,154 yards last season -- has only 104 yards on 38 carries (a 2.7-yard average).

"I know, this team know, it's going to be a point where we do rely heavily on the running game," Portis said. "If you look in recent weeks, we haven't been relying on the running game.

"Jason been doing a great job at throwing the ball, the receivers make plays downfield and we haven't had to rely on the running game. But we all know it's coming at some point. When it do, I'll be ready."

Injury Report

Fullback Mike Sellers (heel) returned to practice yesterday, but wide receiver Antwaan Randle El (hamstring), defensive end Phillip Daniels (shoulder) and linebacker Marcus Washington (hamstring) did not participate.

Randle El said his hamstring felt better, and he hopes to play against Green Bay. Wide receivers Keenan McCardell and James Thrash each took snaps with the first-team offense in place of Randle El.

Veteran linebacker Randall Godfrey would start on the strong side if Washington does not play, and rookie pass-rush specialist Chris Wilson would fill in for Washington as the rush end on third down. Demetric Evans would fill in for Daniels at a starting end spot. . . .

Cornerback Fred Smoot was sent home because of stomach flu. He is expected to be able to play Sunday.

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