- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2008

One game, it was the franchise running back. Another time, the rookie. Last week, the 260-pound fullback.

The Baltimore Ravens acquired Willis McGahee last year so he could carry their offense. But because of injury and the emergence of Ray Rice and Le’Ron McClain, the Ravens have a rare three-pronged running attack.

“Those guys have different styles and different talents,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said Thursday. “To use them in different situations, it makes it difficult for the defense when you’re facing the varied speed and quickness and [toughness] of those guys. It’s a real advantage.”

The Ravens are the only NFL team with three backs over 100 rushing attempts. Only 10 teams have two backs with at least 100 attempts.

The production of McClain (142 rushes, 545 yards, six touchdowns), McGahee (141, 489, five) and Rice (104, 423, none) has produced the league’s third-ranked running game and taken pressure off rookie quarterback Joe Flacco.

Baltimore’s 452 rushes this season account for 56 percent of its offensive plays.

“It’s very rare to see a football team have three backs of that talent and caliber and of different sizes and speeds,” Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. “They bring them at you in waves.

“A lot of teams don’t have two backs [who get a lot of work]. They feature running the football, they play to their defense and they use the running game to protect their quarterback and keep them out of long-yardage situations.”

The Ravens this season average a league-best 33:55 in time of possession.

Injuries have kept McGahee out of three games, opening the door for McClain, a 2007 fourth-round draft pick, and Rice, a second-round pick this year. The duo combined for 41 rushes and 150 yards in a Week 1 win over Cincinnati.

In six games, two of the backs have carried at least 10 times. McClain is the biggest of the group (6-foot, 260 pounds), followed by McGahee (6-0, 232) and Rice (5-8, 205).

“They run the same thing [regardless of who’s playing], and all are comfortable running the same offense,” Blache said. “They plug one in for the other depending on who’s healthy. The last few weeks, [McGahee] hasn’t played, and the other two have run and looked very impressive.”

Injury report

Eight Redskins players didn’t practice Thursday: running back Clinton Portis (neck), defensive end Andre Carter (foot), left tackle Chris Samuels (knee), right guard Randy Thomas (neck), cornerbacks Shawn Springs (calf) and Fred Smoot (excused absence) and linebackers London Fletcher (foot) and Marcus Washington (ankle).

Defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin (shoulder) and Kedric Golston (foot) were limited.

Washington is out, and Portis, Springs and Carter will be game-time decisions.

Leaning on veterans

Only one rookie (safety Chris Horton) and one second-year player (safety LaRon Landry) start for the Redskins, whose starting lineup has an average of 7.2 years of experience, including six players who are in their second decade.

Fletcher said turning around their 1-3 skid starts with the more experienced players.

“For a veteran, you do your job first, and the young guys learn by what we show them,” he said. “Don’t just talk a good game. Show them. Show them how to prepare. Show them how to practice. Show them how to get it done on Sunday. … You can’t give a lot of lip service and then not execute yourself.”

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