NFL Wire News

Redskins excelling at running the football


The Sports Xchange

ASHBURN, Va. – A week after they outrushed Miami 161-74 in a 17-10 opening home loss to the Dolphins, coach Jay Gruden’s Washington Redskins outrushed the Rams 182-67 on Sunday with rookie Matt Jones more than doubling Pro Bowl running back Alfred Morris’ 59 yards with 123 of his own, including two touchdowns in the 24-10 victory.

After finishing 19th in rushing but a respectable 12th in run defense in Gruden’s 4-12 debut last season, Washington has outgained its foes on the ground by a staggering 343-141 while impressively controlling the ball for an average of 37:49.

“We don’t want to throw the ball 50 times,” said Gruden, a former Arena League star quarterback who focused on the pass as Cincinnati’s successful offensive coordinator from 2011-13. We want to run the ball, be physical. [It] opens up a lot of things for us, controls the clock. The blueprint was there last week. We just didn’t make enough plays to win the game. I think if we run the ball more than we pass it [and] have equal amount of rushing yards as passing yards, we’re going to win a lot of games this year.”

It’s way too early to get excited about the Redskins, who have only played host to the Dolphins and Rams, teams that haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and 2004, respectively. But in a pass-happy era when seven of the 10 top-rated quarterbacks of all-time are active and just one of the top 20 running backs (No. 20 Frank Gore) is, six of the top 12 teams in rushing last season made the playoffs. Of those dozen teams, only the New York Jets had a losing record. Seven of the top 12 teams in run defense made the playoffs with only the Jets and the Redskins finishing below .500 out of those dozen teams.

“It’s just a great feeling as a running back especially when a lot of times people devalue running backs nowadays,” Morris, whose 121 yards against the Dolphins were just four shy of his 2014 high, said of Gruden’s newfound reliance on the run.

When Gruden was with the Bengals in 2012, he saw Morris and Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III knife through Cincinnati’s defense 30 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Washington lost 38-31 that day but went on to win the NFC East while leading the NFL in rushing and ranking fifth against the run.

Substitute the power of 6-foot-2, 231-pound rookie bruiser for then-rookie Griffin’s speed and elusiveness and add massive nose tackle Terrance Knighton and run-stopping end Stephen Paea to new coordinator Joe Barry’s more aggressive defense and you have a combination that’s working for the Redskins.

“We’re changing the culture around here, playing with a lot of passion,” said backup defensive end Chris Baker, who pressured St. Louis quarterback Nick Foles into an incompletion on the Rams’ final play and is one of just 15 players remaining from the 2012 division winners.

“When you make teams work for every yard that they get, it’s hard on an offense – I know that firsthand as an ex-offensive coordinator,” Gruden said after Washington thwarted St. Louis on 10 of 12 third downs. “If we can … stop the running game and bring pressure when we want to … it keeps offenses off-balance.”

Just three nights from now, the Redskins visit the 0-2 New York Giants, who beat them twice last year by a total of 42 points and are sure to be mad after blowing 10-point fourth quarter leads in both games so far.

So while defensive end Jason Hatcher was pleased that Washington didn’t give up the game’s final 17 points yesterday as had been the case against Miami, he added, “I think we made some progress … [but] we gotta forget about this real quick and get ready to roll.”

The Redskins on a roll. Almost hard to imagine given that they’ve only won two straight games once since December 2012.


PASSING OFFENSE: A- – QB Kirk Cousins was the epitome of efficiency, completing 23 of 27 throws, albeit for just 203 yards in the absence of injured deep threat DeSean Jackson. Cousins’ quick release and the continued excellence of his protection versus a second straight formidable defensive front allowed him to only be sacked twice. TE Jordan Reed caught all six of the passes aimed his way for 82 yards, including a 29-yarder on third-and-5 that set up the clinching TD. WR Pierre Garcon nabbed six of seven but for just 23 yards as the Rams kept him hemmed in on his trademark crossing routes. WR Ryan Grant, starting in place of Jackson, had a 35-yard grab. RB Chris Thompson had a 10-yard catch on third-and-8 on the clinching drive while rookie RB Matt Jones had an 18-yard reception.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A- – A week after Pro Bowl RB Alfred Morris powered for 121 yards on 25 carries against Miami, Jones thundered for 123 yards – including a 39-yard TD and another score – on 19 carries as Washington’s league-leading ground game finished with 182 yards on 37 attempts. Morris set up Jones’ first TD with a 35-yard scamper but produced just 24 yards on his other 17 carries. The young right side of rookie guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses, who was making his third career start, continues to impress. And the rushing attack obviously isn’t suffering in the absence of injured blocking TE Logan Paulsen. Derek Carrier, acquired from San Francisco last month, started in a two-tight end set.

PASS DEFENSE: A- – The Redskins didn’t have a sack other than one credited to DE Stephen Paea when he touched Nick Foles, who had fallen down, but they still harassed the Rams’ QB enough to limit him to 17 completions for 150 yards on 32 attempts. DE Jason Hatcher seemed to be everywhere while the secondary, minus suspended CB Chris Culliver, injured SS Duke Ihenacho and injured nickel CB Justin Rogers, sparkled other than on Foles’ 40-yard TD to WR Kenny Britt, who beat CB DeAngelo Hall and SS Trenton Robinson. Rookie S Kyshoen Jarrett played well in Rogers’ spot ahead of former starting CB David Amerson.

RUSH DEFENSE: B – St. Louis WR Tavon Austin and RB Tre Mason ran for 29 yards on consecutive snaps in the third quarter to set up a 52-yard FG. Other than that, the Rams managed just 38 yards on 11 carries. ILB Keenan Robinson was effective from sideline to sideline. ILB Will Compton stepped in seamlessly when Perry Riley departed with a calf injury.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C+ – The Redskins followed their ugly opener on special teams with a better performance. New K Dustin Hopkins produced four touchbacks on five kickoffs and hit his only field-goal attempt from 48 yards. P Tress Way didn’t allow a single return on six kicks although he did shank an 18-yarder while trying to keep the ball away from the very dangerous Austin, who took one 78 yards to the house against Washington last season. However, rookie PR Jamison Crowder fared poorly, managing just 12 yards on five returns. KOR Rashad Ross took his only return back 23 yards.

COACHING: A- – Jay Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay compensated for Jackson’s absence by continuing to have Cousins hand the ball off, especially to Jones, who had the hot hand. Make that hot legs. New offensive line coach Bill Callahan has shown why he’s one of the best in the business with his work with Scherff and Moses. New coordinator Joe Barry’s defense has given up just 10 points in each game despite playing without Culliver, Rogers, Ihenacho, Riley and CB Bashaud Breeland for at least a large chunk of a game.

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