ASHBURN — It is hard to imagine the Washington Redskins’ running game getting any worse than it has been in the last three outings. It rushed for just 135 yards combined in games against the Atlanta Falcons, the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The problems stretch back to Week 3, when the Redskins rushed for 88 yards in a 32-21 loss to the New York Giants.
No matter how severely the production dips, coach Jay Gruden and the Redskins are committed to the running game as the focal point of the offense.
Entering the season, an efficient rushing attack and strong run defense were expected to be the pillars of the team’s success. Through the first two weeks, it looked like the Redskins found a winning formula.
They gashed the Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams for 343 yards with Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. On defense, Washington allowed just 141 rushing yards.
Since then, the production on both sides of the run game has plummeted. Washington ranks 23rd in rushing offense, averaging 99 yards per game — a number that is still inflated from the first two weeks. The Redskins’ run defense ranks 30th, allowing an average 128.4 yards per game.
After returning from the bye week, the Redskins hope to reclaim the identity they established in the first two weeks of the season.
“It does matter a lot,” Gruden said. “It matters in this division. It matters later on in the season. When the weather gets bad, it matters, and that’s something that we really have to talk about and focus on. Our run defense has not been very good the last three weeks and our run offense has not been very good. That’s going to cost us football games later on in the season, so it’s a focal point.
“Some teams, quite frankly, you’re going to give up maybe a player in the box and maybe give up a few more running yards than you would against other teams. But, that’s just game-plan specific. Our offense, we should always focus on getting better run looks than we have the last three weeks.”
Defensive end Jason Hatcher held himself and the rest of the defensive line accountable for the struggling run defense.
Lately, they’ve struggled to generate pressure, which has allowed opposing offensive linemen to win favorable matchups against the Redskins’ linebackers.
In the last three games, the Redskins have allowed 587 rushing yards.
“The down linemen just gotta make plays, control our blockers and do more against the run,” Hatcher said. “Knock the guy back in front of you, just create havoc in the backfield. Everybody just has to buy into their craft, even though it’s boring doing the same thing over and over.”