- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) - In their actions and their words at the outset of this season, new general manager Scot McCloughan and second-year head coach Jay Gruden made quite clear that they wanted the Washington Redskins to be a run-first team.

And they did, indeed, begin things that way, becoming the first NFL club in nearly a decade to have two guys each rush for 100 yards in one of the season’s first two games.

What happened to that vision and that version of the Redskins? Getting anywhere on the ground has become nearly impossible for Washington - a meager total of 135 yards across the past three games - so of all the problems it’s had so far during a 3-4 start, that’s the one getting the most attention during the bye week.

“Trying to get the running game back on track is a main priority for us, obviously,” Gruden said. “Three weeks, it hasn’t been very good. We’ve got to get the yards per carry up, have some more confidence in it and just keep working on that.”

With a tough trip to face the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coming up Nov. 8, after the bye, Washington ranks only 26th in the 32-team league at an average gain of 3.7 yards per run, and 21st at 99 yards rushing per game.

Ever since drafting Alfred Morris in the sixth round in 2012, the same year they got now third-string QB Robert Griffin III, the Redskins have been able to count on the rugged runner to bounce off would-be tacklers and gain yards, week after week.

Morris ran for more than 1,000 yards, never averaging worse than 4.1 per carry, and at least seven touchdowns in each of his first three seasons in the NFL.

And now? He only has gained 302 yards - on pace for under 700 by season’s end - at a clip of only 3.3 per carry, and he has scored zero TDs.

“We’ve got to get Alfred going, no question about it,” Gruden said. “The last three weeks … has been rough outings for him, as far as the touches that he gets haven’t been pretty. … We’re not giving up on Alfred, just because he’s had three tough weeks in a row.”

The club’s second-leading rusher is rookie Matt Jones, who has rushed for 249 yards, averaging 4 per carry, and scored three times.

Jones was a third-round pick out of Florida and one of two high draft choices that signaled McCloughan meant it when he said he wanted to create a more physical team; the other was the GM’s first selection for the team, No. 5 overall pick Brandon Scherff, an offensive lineman from Iowa.

The Redskins also adjusted some of the ways they try to run the ball, under the guidance of new offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who oversaw league-leading rusher DeMarco Murray with the Dallas Cowboys last season.

“We’ve just got to get back and take what Coach Callahan teaches during practice and take it to the game field and get back to running the ball,” said Scherff, the starting right guard, “because that can open up the play-action pass and the passing game, as well.”

Having a running game that opponents worry about should make things easier for quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has been up and down this season.

He’s had four two-interception games, and the Redskins are 0-4 in those. He’s had three zero-interception games - including last Sunday’s 31-30 comeback victory over Tampa Bay, which earned NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for Cousins - and the Redskins are 3-0 in those.

QB consistency ranks among the issues the Redskins would like to improve, along with their run defense (which allowed an average of 195 yards the past three games).

They also would like to get back some of the injured starters who’ve missed time, too, including cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver, speedy receiver DeSean Jackson, and center Kory Lichtensteiger.

Top pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan is hoping the bye provides enough time for his broken right hand to heal after surgery so he can face the Patriots.

Still, there is a priority, and everyone knows it.

“Obviously, we want to run the ball and we started the season out strong,” Scherff said. “We need to get back to where we began.”



AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP_NFL


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