Redskins' run game deteriorating

Posted Nov. 29, 2010 @ 5:28 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

The Redskins called 15 consecutive pass plays to end Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Vikings. One reason was that they trailed at one point by 10 points. Another was that the run game, already crippled with the losses of Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain, was not able to accomplish anything of note. With Torain still on the mend and his status up in the air for Sunday's game against the Giants, the Redskins must find solutions on how to approximate something of a balanced attack against a very good defensive front.

The PFW Spin

In regard to running the ball more effectively, head coach Mike Shanahan said Monday, "I believe we can be effective with who we've got." But it's highly debatable, and that includes the offensive line, the quarterback and the receivers. Right now, the Redskins' offense is highly limited, definitely one-dimensional and also hamstrung by injuries.

It's clear the Redskins will miss Portis, even with many throwing dirt on his football grave. His Redskins career might be in serious jeopardy, but you can't deny the fact that he was effective at getting four yards on plays blocked for three and for wearing down defensive fronts. He had great vision and strong legs, which allowed him to make the most of situations, even when sufficient running lanes aren't there.

Shanahan's offense requires great cutback ability, and the replacement backs — Keiland Williams and James Davis, primarily on Sunday — were unable to make those cuts. Either they mistimed them or didn't have the vision or foot speed to execute them. With an offensive line that has remained in flux, that was a formula that had no chance to succeed, especially against a good Vikings front.

Part of the line chemistry and talent is a big issue. Zone blocking requires the linemen to block in tandem off the snap with one of the blockers then moving out to the second level and cleaning up the linebackers. That almost never happened Sunday, and no back had a run longer than four yards, a shockingly low number.

The Redskins' opening drive was terrific. It covered 83 yards in 13 plays, eating up nearly eight minutes, and showed the potential of the Shanahan system. The tight ends were heavily involved, capped by a Fred Davis touchdown. It featured a little "Wildcat" with Brandon Banks sprinkled in. And even though the run wasn't a factor on the series, it showed what was possible when things are good. But as the game went on and the run remained a non-factor, the Vikings adjusted their schemes and sold out to defend the pass. There was no fear of the ground game beating them.

Getting Torain back could help, as he has shown an ability to follow blocks well and explode through the hole. And you'd have to think that Shanahan is including Torain into the group of players he has to work with when he spoke Monday. But there's a lot of cleaning up to do with the personnel and some schemes to iron out, and much of that work might not happen in earnest until the offseason.