- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Each week, it becomes more difficult to make sense of the Washington Redskins‘ running game.

After Alfred Morris played 42 snaps against the New York Giants in Week 12 — the second-most he’s played since the season opener — he played just eight in Monday’s 19-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Rookie running back Matt Jones played 40 snaps — four more than he had played in the previous two games combined.

It’s not that we haven’t seen this pattern before this season. Coach Jay Gruden has remained adamant that neither running back is falling out of favor, but that he wants to ride the “hot hand,” so to speak. That’s all good when either Morris or Jones are running significantly better than the other, but in a game such as Monday’s, when neither seems effective, it becomes more difficult to buy into that strategy.

Morris carried the ball six times for 12 yards — all in the first half — before taking a backseat to Jones, who rushed 18 times for 49 yards.

Jones showed explosiveness in spurts against the Cowboys. On one drive in the second quarter, Jones had gains of 10 and nine yards two plays apart. In the third quarter, Jones had carries for nine and eight yards on consecutive carries.

Mix in another nine-yard gain in the fourth quarter, and that’s 45 yards on five carries. No coach will complain about an average of nine yards per carry and that is likely why the Redskins felt inclined to stick with Jones. By that moment, Jones was running significantly better than Morris. The other 13 carries though? Four yards. Jones rushed for no gain or negative yards six times.

As the Redskins close in on the final four games of the season, it will be interesting to see if Gruden and the coaching staff decide to stick with one back, though it’s hardly certain if that’s the answer to the running game woes.

Here are a few other observations from Monday’s snap counts:

** The Redskins‘ defensive line was shorthanded with injuries to defensive ends Jason Hatcher and Stephen Paea. Hatcher had his ankle rolled on in the third quarter and three plays later he was hit in the head. He was evaluated for a possible concussion and stinger and finished the game with just 20 snaps. Paea injured his toe and played just 10. As a result, Chris Baker and Ricky Jean Francois played 43 and 34 snaps, respectively. Jean Francois, who entered the game having played 31.3 percent of the defensive snaps, was out there 61 percent of the time. In the fourth quarter, Baker stuffed McFadden on third-and-goal from the one-yard line.

** With Derek Carrier inactive because of a left ankle sprain, the Redskins relied on offensive tackle Tom Compton again as a run-blocker in multiple-tight end sets. Compton played 17 snaps, while tight end Je’Ron Hamm played just three snaps. Fullback Darrel Young did not play an offensive snap for the first time this season. With Carrier out of the lineup, it was somewhat surprising the Redskins never used him as a lead blocker, even for one play.

** The Redskins need Keenan Robinson healthy. He was active on Monday for the first time in three weeks, but did not play a snap. Will Compton played all 56 snaps and Mason Foster played 46 in his first start this season. With Perry Riley out three to six weeks because of a broken bone in his right foot, the Redskins‘ inside linebacker depth is dangerously thin.

Here are the full snap counts, with the total number played in parentheses. 

Offense: LT Trent Williams (65/65), LG Spencer Long (65/65), C Josh LeRibeus (65/65), RG Brandon Scherff (65/65), RT Morgan Moses (65/65), QB Kirk Cousins (65/65), TE Jordan Reed (62/65), WR Pierre Garcon (58/68), WR Jamison Crowder (54/65), WR DeSean Jackson (48/65), RB Matt Jones (40/65), OL Tom Compton (17/65), RB Chris Thompson (17/65), WR Ryan Grant (12/65), RB Alfred Morris (8/65), OL Ty Nsekhe (4/65), TE Je’Ron Hamm (3/65), WR Rashad Ross (2/65).

Defense: ILB Will Compton (56/56), CB Bashaud Breeland (56/56), FS Dashon Goldson (56/56), OLB Ryan Kerrigan (56/56), CB Will Blackmon (55/56), ILB Mason Foster (46/56), DE Chris Baker (43/56), DB DeAngelo Hall (39/56), DE Ricky Jean Francois (34/56), CB Quinton Dunbar (31/56), OLB Trent Murphy (28/56), FS Kyshoen Jarrett (28/56), OLB Preston Smith (28/56), DE Jason Hatcher (20/56), NT Terrance Knighton (17/56), DE Kedric Golston (12/56), DE Stephen Paea (10/56), OLB Houston Bates (1/56).

Special teams: Darrel Young (21/31), Murphy (21/31), Bates (20/31), Hamm (20/31), Dashaun Phillips (19/31), Jeron Johnson (18/31), Golston (15/31), Carlos Fields (14/31), Grant (12/31), W. Compton (12/31), Tress Way (12/31), Nick Sundberg (12/31), T. Compton (10/31), Blackmon (10/31), Jarrett (10/31), Dustin Hopkins (9/31), Goldson (9/31), Breeland (9/31), Ross (8/31), Dunbar (8/31), Knighton (8/31), Foster (7/31), Thompson (6/31), Jean Francois (6/31), Williams (5/31), Moses (5/31), Long (5/31), Scherff (5/31), Kerrigan (5/31), Nsekhe (5/31), Smith (4/31), Crowder (3/31), Jackson (3/31), Reed (1/31), Garcon (1/31), Jones (1/31), Hatcher (1/31).

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