The inconsistent play of Washington Redskins quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck has received much scrutiny this season, but coach Mike Shanahan said an ineffective rushing attack deserves equal blame for his team’s offensive woes.
After opening the year on a solid note, ranking fourth in the league, the Redskins’ rushing attack has plunged over the course of the last five games, and Washington now has the second-worst ground game in the league.
“They go hand-in-hand,” Shanahan said of the struggles in the run game and at the quarterback position. “Your offense goes hand-in-hand. [The rushing attack] sets up the play-action pass. It sets up your draws, your play-action game. You can’t be a one-dimensional football team, and if you are, usually once you get to the playoffs, you’re out fairly quickly. So, we’ve always believed in balance. Once you don’t have that balance, usually you’re going to turn the football over and mistakes will happen. It puts a lot of pressure on that offensive line when you don’t have a running game.”
Since Tim Hightower suffered a season-ending knee injury, Shanahan has gone back and forth between Ryan Torain and Roy Helu as feature back, but neither has been able to produce consistently.
During the Redskins’ five-game losing streak, Torain has mustered only 10.6 rushing yards a game on 6.2 attempts. Meanwhile, Helu has averaged slightly better, but still paltry, total of 17. 4 rushing yards a game on 3.8 carries.
Neither player has received a steady flow of carries as Shanahan has rotated them in and out of the starting lineup. With Washington’s offense sputtering and the team falling behind early in most games, the Redskins have to abandon the run, and that means few opportunities for backs.
Shanahan said rotating Torain and Helu as starters isn’t to blame for the rushing attack’s inability to take off. Instead, the coach pointed to poor execution and injury-related shuffling as the chief reasons for the struggles.
“I don’t think it’s a rotating cast of characters. I’ve been with situations where we’ve had one guy. I‘ve been in situations where we’ve had three guys. But what you want is production,” the coach said.Later he added
, “It’s a combination [of reasons for the ineffective attack]. When you miss some of those parts… Chris Cooley, even though he didn’t play a lot, takes a little pressure off of Fred [Davis] too. You’ve got a guy like Hightower [out]. You get a different left tackle, left guard, and center. It doesn’t take a whole lot, but all of the sudden you’re not the same.
“Obviously you go from fourth to eighth to [31st], that’s a big jump, so we’ve got to get better in that area,” Shanahan added. “We’re working to get better. But I do see improvement over the last couple of games. We have guys getting better at their positions, and some of the guys that were hurt — like Trent Williams getting better and Will Montgomery playing at very high level and Maurice Hurt starting to play a lot better, and obviously, Sean Locklear hopefully improving as time goes on.”