After a hot start, Redskins running game has disappeared
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Redskins once had the NFL’s top rushing attack. But in recent weeks, the ground attack has stalled.
Through the first two weeks, Washington recorded 343 rushing yards. Rookie Matt Jones Alfred Morris were a formidable pair and bolstered the Redskins’ identity as a physical, run-first team.
That number has plummeted to 266 rushing yards in losing two of the past three games, including a paltry 51 in a 25-19 overtime loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
”It’s going to be a major part of our success,” coach Jay Gruden said. ”If we don’t have that part of our offense going, you see what kind of troubles we have. We’re not very good. We have to figure out a way to get it going and I think we will.”
If Washington can’t conjure an answer soon, then its sputtering offense will be in serious trouble. And this week’s opponent could pose the toughest challenge yet when the Redskins play at the New York Jets, who allow the second fewest yards per game (280.3) and seventh fewest rushing yards per play (3.75).
Losing wide receiver DeSean Jackson (left hamstring) in the first quarter of the season opener on Sept. 13 hasn’t helped. Without Jackson’s blazing speed, it’s become easier for opposing defenses to commit extra players to the line of scrimmage.
Jackson has done more work at practice this week. But on Thursday, after appearing to run at close to full speed during the portion of practice open to reporters, Jackson ”felt a little twinge,” according to Gruden.
The Redskins hoped to have Jackson back on Sunday. Now, his status is uncertain.
”When we’re down receivers, too, people know we’re going to run the ball,” Jones said. ”(If) we get DeSean Jackson back that’s definitely going to open up some more running lanes for us because they’ve got to respect him and his deep routes.”
That will be hard enough against an imposing New York defensive front that returns end Sheldon Richardson from a four-game suspension. But Washington also could be without its top two offensive linemen – three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and center Kory Lichtensteiger.
Williams was limited during Wednesday’s practice with what was described as a ”spine” injury. He didn’t participate at all on Thursday and the diagnosis was clarified as a neck injury. That would leave quarterback Kirk Cousins without his blindside protector.
Lichtensteiger struggled with shoulder, finger and neck injuries in the Atlanta loss. He, too, was listed as limited on Wednesday and did not practice on Thursday. The Redskins have already lost starting left guard Shawn Lauvao (left ankle) for the season.
If Williams can’t play, Ty Nsekhe would likely be the left tackle. At age 29, the 6-foot-8, 325-pounder has never started an NFL game and been active for just four. Josh LeRibeus would play center for Lichtensteiger, who has started the last 21 games at that spot for Washington and 53 in a row overall.
”We have a level of concern against that defensive line even with your (starters),” Gruden said. ”We know it’s going to be a tough battle no matter who’s out there, but we feel good about the guys that will play.”
And there are more injury woes for the Redskins. Cornerback Chris Culliver (left knee) and tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) again did not practice. Both players missed the Atlanta game last week.