For those worried about Washington's run game on offense, consider this

Peter Hailey
·3 min read

For those worried about Washington's run game, consider this originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington's rushing offense hasn't done a lot of, well, rushing in 2020.

Through the team's first 10 contests of the year, the Burgundy and Gold have compiled the third-fewest yards on the ground in the NFL, and their mark of 3.8 yards-per-attempt slots them 28th overall. 

There is plenty of context behind those lowly stats, chief among them that Washington is constantly playing from behind, and sometimes from well behind. They also are relying on Antonio Gibson (a converted wideout in his rookie campaign), JD McKissic (a converted wideout in his fifth campaign) and Peyton Barber (who's never exceeded 4.1 yards-per-carry in his career) to lead the way.

Those factors notwithstanding, Scott Turner's unit would obviously be better served if their running backs were producing more on handoffs. However, the coordinator isn't too stressed about those struggles, primarily because that position contributing by catching balls out of the backfield.

"Yeah, I don’t really get caught up in stats a lot just in general as far as if it’s rushing or passing," Turner said. "To me, they’re all plays and we want to just be able to move the football."

With that response, Turner brings up an interesting point: Who the hell cares how the ball is advancing forward as long as it's just advancing forward?

Now, sure, that is probably a bit too simple. Establishing the run, at least to an extent, is necessary, since it sets up play action, lets the linemen be aggressive in their blocking and keeps defenses from totally committing to one aspect of the operation.

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But consider what JD McKissic did in the Detroit loss. Some took issue with how involved he was as a receiver — he did see 15 targets, which is a ton — and how he turned seven catches into just 43 yards.

That 6.1 yards-per-reception by McKissic isn't that impressive, but if you view that output as "an extension of" the running game like Turner said he does on Wednesday, it could change your perspective on the coach's whole approach.

"Those types of completions, those high-percentage completions, are just like handing the ball off to a guy," he said.

Of course, in an ideal world, Gibson and McKissic would be moving the chains more with their feet in order to better assist Alex Smith and allow Turner to broaden his plan. The ideal world rarely exists in pro football, though, so Turner is instead heavily featuring Gibson and McKissic on quick-developing routes to make up for where they're lacking. 

It's so easy to scream about how Washington isn't running well. But if you can stop screaming for a second and think a little differently, maybe you'll come to realize that a pass can act like a run when the run isn't working. Yards are yards, no matter how they're picked up.