Take the top running back and wide receiver out of a middling offense, and what do you get? The Washington Redskins are about to find out.
They will have to correct their season's errant course without running back Tim Hightower and wideout Santana Moss. Hightower will miss the rest of the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against Carolina on Sunday. Moss is expected to be out five to seven weeks with a fractured left hand.
Add those injuries to a list that includes three other front-line offensive players: tight end Chris Cooley, left tackle Trent Williams and left guard Kory Lichtensteiger.
“It would be great to have all those guys out there, but you've just got to roll with the punches,” quarterback John Beck said. “We have to go out and win with the guys we got and just continue to get better as a football team.”
Hightower hurt his knee early in the third quarter when he planted his left leg to cut. He crumpled to the ground without being hit. An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury.
“To see a guy go down off of injuries and just a player that's doing so well like [Tim], it's definitely tough for me and the team,” running back Ryan Torain said. “He's such a great leader, and he's such a positive player in the locker room.”
Torain and rookie Roy Helu will play more in Hightower's absence. Torain, who started in Week 6 against Philadelphia, has 152 yards on 31 carries this season. He was the Redskins' leading rusher last year, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
He believes increased playing time will allow him to develop a strong rhythm in the Redskins' zone running scheme.
“If you get the ball more, you definitely get a good feel for the line and how the defense is flowing,” he said. “You never know until you're in there.”
Helu has 131 yards on 27 attempts. He played extensively in passing situations Sunday.
“It was disappointing, especially with me and Tim, our relationship,” Helu said. “Ever since I've been here he's been giving me such great wisdom. I think the biggest thing that I still remember he said to me when he first got here is 'Just run.' That's something I've held on to.”
Hightower rushed for 88 yards on 17 carries Sunday before being injured. Shanahan held him out of the Philadelphia game with a left shoulder injury.
For the season, the Alexandria native and University of Richmond product gained 321 yards on 84 attempts, scoring one touchdown. He also caught 10 passes for 78 yards and a score. His superior pass-protection skills were an important asset, as well.
The Redskins traded for him in late July. Hightower's one-year restricted free agent contract expires at the end of the season.
“Thankful for all the support,” Hightower wrote on his Twitter account Monday afternoon. “Its not what happens its how u respond. Im Stronger spiritually, physically, and mentally Purpose driven”
The Redskins will consider promoting sixth-round rookie running back Evan Royster from the practice squad, Shanahan said.
Moss on Monday had three pins inserted in his fractured left hand near his index finger, Shanahan said. He ranks second on the team in receptions (25) and third in receiving yards (301).
“That's big because Santana has been one of our playmakers,” Beck said. “We've got some young guys at wide receiver that have got to step up for us and make plays.”
Anthony Armstrong and rookie Niles Paul replaced Moss as the 'X' receiver in Sunday's game. Paul had 25 yards on two catches, the first of his career.
“He's played a few plays, and when he's played he's taken advantage of it,” Shanahan said.
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