Herschel Walker's gears may be slow in starting. The Federals' rushing gears are just plain stuck.
In Sunday's 19-16 loss to the Boston Breakers, Eric Robinson, playing for injured Craig James, gained 32 yards in 20 attempts. Fullback James Mayberry (two yards in six rushes) and halfback Buddy Hardeman (minus-seven yards in one attempt) went, in tandem, 15 feet backward.
That all comes to 27 attempts for 27 yards--one yard per carry.
"We're just not generating a running game," said General Manager Dick Myers. "We've done a super job of pass blocking, but the run blocking has just not been there."
Ostensibly, Dave Pacella's two errant snaps--one to punter Steve Hoffman, the other on a 42-yard field goal attempt with the score tied and 51 seconds remaining--lost the game for the Federals. In order to win, Washington needs to run the ball with more success. The Federals' running backs have been trying to maneuver in a thicket of tacklers.
Even James, Washington's best offensive hope, could not operate in the swarm. In his one complete game, he gained only 34 yards on 14 carries against Chicago.
"It's the blocking," said Coach Ray Jauch. "We know Craig has potential and Eric (Robinson) did a pretty good job. But they need a little help. When I look at the films, it seems it's not one particular guy's fault. One or another guy keeps blowing blocks on every play."
The starting offensive linemen against the Breakers were guards Brian Musselman and Myke Horton, center Bruce Byrom and tackles Pacella and Joel Patten. Despite his flagrant mistakes snapping for punts and field goals, Pacella is probably the strongest blocker of the five.
In an effort to shore up the motionless running game, the Federals have already signed guard Mike Wilson, an all-Canadian Football League guard. "We'll work with Mike this week and see how much he can learn," said Jauch.
Jauch said that he would continue to bring more offensive lineman to practice sessions for tryouts.
Without any running game to speak of, Kim McQuilken was fortunate to have the kind of success he had against Boston. In the finest performance of his professional career, McQuilken completed 25 of 47 passes for 322 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Kim did a great job for us," said Jauch. "On a couple of those interceptions, they bounced right out of the receiver's hands."
Myers announced the Federals have signed quarterback Joe Gilliam, guard Vaughn Harmon and linebacker Jeff McIntyre to the team's 10-man development squad, meaning they can be activated at any time during the season. Receivers Marc Brown and Walker Lee, who scored a touchdown in the Federals' 28-7 loss to Chicago, were released.