- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coach Mike Shanahan has a history of employing a committee of running backs rather than featuring a single player. Different players have different strengths, he says, so rotating backs is often the best strategy.

Only one back takes the first snap, though, and Tim Hightower wants it to be him in light of Ryan Torain’s breakout game against St. Louis. Despite the Washington Redskins‘ multi-back approach, he believes the title of starter is not overrated.

“Not to me,” Hightower said. “That’s my job. It doesn’t guarantee anything — you can start and then come out of the game for the rest of the game — but that’s what I take pride in. That’s what I do. It’s important to me, just like winning is important to me.”

Hightower has totaled only 65 yards on 22 carries in the Redskins‘ past two games. He battled a left shoulder injury, which he suffered in Week 1 against New York.

He tried to conceal it from coaches, but Shanahan ultimately noticed that something wasn’t right against St. Louis. Torain got his first playing time of the season and rushed for 135 yards on 19 carries. Torain gained 105 yards after contact.

“It limited my playing ability, but it’s better, and I’m looking forward to playing,” Hightower said.

Coaches won’t say who will start this week because they believe the secrecy gives them a competitive advantage. Decisions about dividing playing time among Hightower, Torain and rookie Roy Helu are fluid, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said.

“Every game is its own individual game, and you see how it plays out,” he said. “You get a feel for three guys going during the week. You get a feel in the game and you usually just go with your gut and how it’s going. You never know what will happen, and we have three guys that understand that and will all handle it well.”

Seeking holes in ‘Wide 9’

Philadelphia’s ‘Wide 9’ defensive front has become a lightning rod for local media criticism, and the Redskins believe they can exploit it as other teams have.

“We’ve really got to be patient and stick to our assignments because there are big plays in it,” Hightower said.

Generally speaking, the Eagles line their defensive ends up unusually wide of the offensive tackles. The idea is to rush the passer with space to operate and build momentum.

It can leave the inside soft against the run, though, so linebackers and safeties are counted on to make reads and shed blocks. The Eagles have struggled with the scheme because of tackling and some personnel issues. They’re giving up 5.01 yards per rush, 27th in the NFL.

“It’s going to make for some challenges in the running game to try to capture the edge, but it should open up some stuff inside, too,” Redskins left guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.

Might it be easier to cut block defensive linemen so intent on penetrating?

“It could, sometimes, if they’re just shot out of a cannon,” Lichtensteiger said. “I think the most challenging technique to try to cut is when somebody is playing lateral with their hands up.”

Tight end Chris Cooley could face those defensive ends, Jason Babin on the left and Darryl Tapp on the right, at some point. (Tapp replaces the injured Trent Cole.)

“Watching them play, it seems like they get out of position a little bit,” he said. “They’re physically talented in the run game. I just think they’re not quite sound in their system, and that makes sense based on an offseason without OTAs and a new defensive system.

“You’ve got to expect that they’re going to play well and do the things they’re supposed to do, and we’re not going to go into the game assuming we can run the ball just because other teams have.”

Extra points

* Cooley had fluid drained from his surgically repaired left knee earlier this week and was limited in practice for a second straight day. “A little bit of a setback,” Mike Shanahan said.

Receiver Anthony Armstrong (hamstring), cornerback Phillip Buchanon (neck) and running back Tim Hightower (shoulder) were limited.

* The NFL recently finalized the 2012 opponents for every team. The Redskins will host Dallas, the Giants, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore, Cincinnati and the same-place finisher in the NFC North.

They’ll visit Dallas, the Giants, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and the same-place finisher in the NFC West.

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