RB RYAN TORAIN: After not getting into the first three games, Torain reminded us that he’s a superb fit for this running scheme. He has a great feel for how and when cutback lanes develop, and his footwork is such that he violently and sharply cuts upfield when he decides to go. He also consistently squares his shoulders to the line of scrimmage.
Torain’s best attribute is his ability to gain yards after contact. He had 105 on Sunday, by my count. He gained at least a yard after contact on 16 of his 19 carries. That was due to his combination of power, speed and some shifty moves. He gained 16 yards on a third-quarter run despite being met in the backfield by Rams LBBen Leber. Torain juked Leber out of his cleats by planting hard with his right foot before darting to the left. Leber was helpless.
Other times it was brute strength. On a fourth-quarter run, he drove Leber backward 5 yards after contact simply by lowering his shoulder and keeping his legs churning.
Torain presses the hole exceptionally well, too. On his 20-yard touchdown run, Rams S Quintin Mikell overplayed the run to the outside as Torain ran left. That allowed LT Trent Williams to seal him and help create a huge cutback lane.
Torain fumbled early in the fourth quarter when he was hit from behind. He was carrying the ball a bit away from his body, and DT Justin Bannan stripped him. Torain gets a pass because he recovered the fumble. And, hey, winning masks such errors. Torain also was not asked to do much pass blocking, an area in which RB Tim Hightower is superior.
RG CHRIS CHESTER: This was Chester’s best performance in four games with the team, to which offensive line coach Chris Foerster agreed on Tuesday. One play, in particular, exemplified Chester’s progress in the scheme:
First quarter, second-and-5 from the St. Louis 42-yard line. RB Tim Hightower ran a stretch play to the right. Chester executed a combination block by shoving DT Fred Robbins and getting to MLB James Laurinaitis. But it’s how Chester did it that had Foerster so excited.
Chester initially helped C Will Montgomery with Robbins by reaching out with his left hand. Chester was quick enough to contact Robbins away from his own body. Sometimes if a lineman tries to start a combo block with his forearm close to his chest, he loses the space needed to free himself and release to the second level. On this play, though, Chester’s hand was well away from his body. That allowed him room to clear the lineman and get to the linebacker.
The blocked helped open a huge cutback lane, which Hightower did not take. The play went for minus-2 yards when Hightower tried to run around the right edge. Still, Chester did an exceptional job. Foerster was thrilled about it.
WR JABAR GAFFNEY: Gaffney’s 62 receiving yards were a game high. He continues to fill his role extremely well. He’s a reliable route runner with sure hands — his drop against the Giants seems to have been an anomaly. All four of his receptions on Sunday resulted in first downs, and three were third-down conversions. He adjusts well to low throws; a couple times this season he has slid to pick a ball off the turf. So far, he has been a quality acquisition.
WR NILES PAUL: The fifth-round rookie played more with the Redskins determined to exploit St. Louis’ lousy run defense. Paul is a very good blocker, possibly the best among Washington’s receivers. Most importantly, he has the right attitude. Because he had to block for Nebraska’s option attack in college, he understands how valuable that job is. He doesn’t care about whether passes are thrown his way, only contributing to the team.
And because of his role at Nebraska, Paul’s blocking technique is quite good. Several times on Sunday he controlled his defender by getting his hands inside. On RB Roy Helu’s 9-yard cutback run in the first quarter, Paul ran against the grain and cut DE Chris Long on the backside, which opened the lane for Helu.