- 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.

San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is brought down by a wall of Philadelphia Eagles defenders during an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 2, 2011, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/The News-Journal, Suchat Pederson) NO SALES
San Francisco 49ers running back Frank Gore is brought down by a ... more >

“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?

Story Continues →