The Test asks two Post specialists to take unique looks at a Redskins issue leading up to each game. Neil Greenberg of our Fancy Stats blog runs the numbers; Separately, Mark Bullock gives it the eye test. 

Neil Greenberg’s take:
The Redskins‘ running game, which ranked third in yards per carry last season, has struggled this year. And at times it has been non-existent. For example, last week the team ran the ball just eight times in the first half despite never trailing by more than six points. Then, in the second half when things got out of hand, they ran the ball just four times.

It’s not that they lack for weapons in the backfield. Alfred Morris is averaging 4.1 yards per attempt with 2.6 of those yards coming after contact. He ranks sixth in runs of 15 yards or more.

Mark Bullock’s take:
The Redskins’ running game hit a new low against the Rams last Sunday. Running back Alfred Morris had a career-worst eight carries for just six yards. This came just two weeks after Morris had his best game of the season and his only 100-yard game thus far. The biggest factors in this most recent failure in the run game, in my opinion, were the tight ends and Morris himself, although some offensive linemen struggled as well.

This was one of Morris’s first runs. He’s running to the right of the offensive line, with his initial aiming point being the outside shoulder of tight end Niles Paul. The Rams split their defensive ends wide. This can be a risky move against a zone play, as the tight end could just kick the end outside and take him out of the play completely. But the Rams did this to stop right tackle Tom Compton from helping out Paul on the block, giving the Rams a one-on-one match up against Paul. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald also stunts inside right guard Chris Chester.

Paul loses leverage to the defensive end, who gets a lower pad level than Paul and holds him at the point of attack before driving him backwards. Donald surprises Chester with the inside move and gets past him into the backfield.

The defensive end sheds the block from Paul and works into the backfield. With Donald already there, Morris has nowhere to cut back and is forced to try and bounce the run outside, but is caught before he makes it back to the line of scrimmage.

Paul struggled in a similar fashion on the Redskins’ worst run of the game.

This is another run to the right behind Paul and Compton. The Rams use a wide defensive end again, but also walk down the Sam (strong-side) linebacker to the line of scrimmage. This gives the Redskins a tough run look. The Rams force three one-on-one match ups on the play side of the run and make it tough for center Kory Lichtensteiger to reach the second level.

Paul loses his match up with the defensive end again and gets driven back into the backfield. Chester also struggles to control his block, forcing Lichtensteiger to help him before trying to reach the second level.

With Paul driven back, Morris either has to try and bounce the run further outside or cut it back. But the Rams have three unblocked defenders on the backside of the run, so Morris’s choice is made for him. With Lichtensteiger having to help Chester, he’s unable to reach the Mike (middle) linebacker, who runs free to the edge.

Paul gets driven back by the defensive end, who makes an effort to arm-tackle Morris. The back-side defender and the Mike ‘backer both join in pursuit.

Morris breaks free of the tackle, but has nowhere to go and is tackled for a seven-yard loss.

Paul wasn’t the only tight end at fault on running plays. Jordan Reed made his share of bad plays.

Morris runs to the left on this play, with Reed and Paul both lining up to that side. The Rams bring safety Mark Barron on a run blitz.

Reed shoots outside as if he thought he was running a route or expected Barron to play outside contain. But Barron runs inside right past him.

Morris hardly has a chance to react before he’s tackled in the backfield for another loss.

Reed struggled run blocking throughout, but he wasn’t always helped out by Morris.

Washington goes back to the right side on this run. Reed lines up on the back side of the run.

Reed has to cut off the back-side defensive end on this play. He gets an early punch on him here. On the front side of the run, Compton takes outside leverage on defensive end Chris Long, allowing Paul to work up to the second level.

Morris should be reading the defensive end on these stretch plays. Compton has him sealed off inside, so Morris should be following the run outside. But Morris decides to cut it back. On the back side, Reed’s punch isn’t enough to maintain the block against Robert Quinn, who quickly sheds the block and works towards Morris in the backfield.

Quinn closes the gap between himself and Morris quickly and makes the tackle around the line of scrimmage for a minimal gain.

Morris looked a shade of the man that ran for 125 yards at six yards per carry just two weeks previously. Against San Francisco, Morris was consistent with his reads and made up for poor blocks. But his reads hindered his progress against the Rams.

This was Morris’s second carry of the game, running to the left behind Trent Williams.

Trent Williams gets driven back off the line of scrimmage, but seals the edge.

Morris could have kept running tot he outside and perhaps should have, but cuts back early into traffic.

Morris is able to get back to the line of scrimmage, but can’t gain any yards on the play. But if Morris had run outside, he could have had a potentially big gain.

When the Redskins were successful, they had a run-first identity. But they’re making too many mistakes and are losing that identity. Six yards on eight carries from Morris is an unacceptable performance from the offense. Washington needs to be committed to improving that in these final three weeks of the season.

Neil Greenberg runs Fancy Stats, where numbers meet news. Mark Bullock is The Insider’s Outsider, sharing his impressions without the benefit of access to the team. He also posts here.

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