In this week's post, we're going to take a look at the Washington Redskins' rushing attack on Thursday, when they nearly quadrupled the Detroit Lions' total yardage on the ground. Of course, this is still only preseason, so take it in stride. With the horribly depressing exception of injuries and the somewhat redeeming exception of longshots fulfilling their dream of making an NFL roster, nothing that happens really means much for the regular season.
Alfred Morris is going to do his thing as long as the Redskins allow him to, but he was responsible for just three of Washington's 40 carries in the 21-17 win. Trey Williams led the team with 10 carries for 52 yards, top backup Matt Jones finished with eight carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, and Chris Thompson added five carries for 37 yards.
This was the second time in as many games that the Skins ran wild while also stifling their opponents' rushing attack; the Burgundy and Gold finished with 179 yards on the ground to Detroit's 46 a week after piling up 153 rushing yards to the Cleveland Browns' 45. That's 332 rushing yards for Washington through two preseason games and 91 for its opponents. That's a pretty considerable disparity, but let's dig a bit deeper.
The Redskins got their 332 yards on 77 carries (37 against Cleveland, 40 against Detroit), an average of 4.3 yards per carry. The Browns ran it 19 times (2.4 ypc), with the longest going for just 12 yards. The Lions ran it 13 times (3.5 ypc), and 14 yards was the most they managed on any one carry. Combined, Cleveland and Detroit averaged just 2.8 yards per carry.
Alf led the Skins in the first game, nearly matching Cleveland's 45 yards with 42 of his own, and he did it on 11 fewer carries. Morris basically had the night off against Detroit, playing just four snaps, but Williams came out and singlehandedly out-rushed the Lions — and he's not even a lock to make the team.
This could all mean a few things:
- The Redskins have a bevy of very talented running backs. Even after losing Silas Redd for the year, three running backs not named Morris — Jones, Thompson and Williams — have been genuinely impressive.
- Washington's run defense is much improved. Yes, the Skins have been impressive on the ground, but it's perhaps more impressive that they've held teams below 50 rushing yards in back-to-back outings.
- Nothing much. Neither team played its starters for very long, Detroit and Cleveland were both missing key guys in the run game (Haloti Ngata and Joique Bell for the Lions, Joe Thomas for the Browns), the Lions' top three running backs combined for just five carries and the Browns' backfield is a bit of a mess.
Ultimately, as is the case with most trends, the answer is "D: all of the above." The Redskins do have better running back depth than they've had in a few years and their run defense (and depth) is improved. But most importantly, the Redskins did not go against top-flight competition, to put it kindly. Neither the Lions nor the Browns are expected to have especially strong rushing attacks this year, and neither team made the run game a priority.
So while it's certainly a positive sign that Washington has dominated the run game in consecutive outings, the first real test comes on Saturday against Justin Forsett and the Baltimore Ravens. Forsett is no Adrian Peterson, but he did put up 1,266 rushing yards on 5.4 yards per carry last year. And then there's that Ravens defense.
Stay tuned, sports fans.