Washington Redskins: Not Running Enough

Fewer Runs Contributing to the Redskins' Struggles

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY| The Washington Redskins' upset bid was foiled by the Denver Broncos Sunday when the Broncos managed to erase a 14-point deficit and score 38 unanswered points. The Redskins offense sputtered through the game and has come under scrutiny this week after amassing only 266 total yards. More specifically, people are questioning offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play calling.

Through the first three quarters, the Redskins had 21 passing plays and 24 rushing plays. That ratio went out the window in the fourth quarter when the offense called 22 passing plays and only three runs. As the deficit grew, so did the need to pass, but the Redskins abandoned the run long before the situation dictated.

The Broncos tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter. In between that time and when the Broncos took a 17 point lead, the Redskins ran 11 plays on offense. Nine of those plays were passes. Alfred Morris averaged 5.5 yards per carry against the Broncos. You can justify the need to exclusively pass towards the end of the quarter as the deficit continued to climb, but there is no excuse for attempting only two runs in those first 11 plays of the quarter.

Sunday's fourth quarter highlights a trend that is contributing to the Redskins' offensive troubles in 2013.

In 2012, the Redskins averaged 32.4 rush attempts per game , third most in the NFL. That number has gone down considerably this season with the Redskins averaging 27.6 rush attempts , good for 16 th in the NFL. This is behind both Seattle, who leads the league, and San Francisco, two teams that also utilize the read option as part of their offense. It is also behind Green Bay and Denver. Despite having Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning at quarterback, these teams attempt to run the ball more than the Redskins.

Morris' attempts have also gone down from third most in the NFL with 20.9 attempts in 2012 to 17 th this year with 15.4 attempts . While Robert Griffin III may be experiencing a sophomore slump, Morris is definitely not, averaging 5.2 yards a carry on the year. In fact, the Redskins' rushing attack has been very effective when called upon all season and is tied for first in the NFL with an average of 5.0 yards per run.

Part of the running game's success last year was due to Griffin who finished the season with 120 attempts for 815 yards . After the knee injury it is no surprise to see him take a reduced role in the rush attack, but the return of a healthy Roy Helu Jr. should easily mitigate Griffin's drop in attempts.

In fact, questions over Griffin's health should mean more runs for this offense, not less. Every time he drops back to pass, he is exposed to more hits. Including the 11 they allowed to Denver , the Redskins have allowed 43 quarterback hits this season, tied with Philadelphia who is now using their third quarterback because of injuries sustained by their first two. Shouldn't the Redskins be trying to get the ball out of Griffin's hands more often to prevent their franchise quarterback from taking such punishment?

With Griffin returning from a second major knee surgery, a returning Helu, and a rushing attack that has proven to be effective, why isn't Kyle Shanahan utilizing it more this season?

To be fair, Kyle Shanahan did admit that he should have called more runs more in the fourth quarter , but the numbers show this was not an isolated issue. The offense simply is not running the ball as much as it should be. As Griffin continues to struggle, there is an obvious solution that can ease the pressure on him, protect him from taking more hits, and allow more openings in the passing game: give the ball to Morris!

JJ Regan is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic and is currently earning his master's in journalism at American Universit. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy

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