The 2017 Redskins are hoping to run the ball as well as the 2016 Redskins ran it (4.5 yards per carry, 8th in the NFL) but are also looking to use the ground more than they did a year ago (27th overall in attempts).
In their first shot at making that change on Thursday night in Baltimore, however, the team underwhelmed.
Jay Gruden split 18 carries amongst his five running backs in the Redskins’ preseason opener, yet the group totaled just 39 yards. That 2.2 YPC average is less than half of what the offense generated last season.
Rob Kelley was dropped for a large loss on an early third-and-1. Samaje Perine had an 11-yard carry — and on his other five touches, posted just four yards. Matt Jones and Mack Brown, both of whom are battling for a roster spot, were quiet, too.
"We didn't get a lot of movement," Jay Gruden said afterward. "We had a couple hits there in the second half. But overall, there wasn't a lot of movement... Very good defense for the first six plays. We have to do better."
Gruden’s right: The Ravens had the fifth-best run defense in 2016 and were even more stout at home, where they allowed just 68.9 YPC. Running against them wasn’t going to be an easy task.
On top of that, the Burgundy and Gold’s offensive line wasn’t even close to at its best in the exhibition. Both the starters and the backups had trouble openings holes for their RBs and protecting their QBs all evening long.
With that being said, there’ll be weeks this year where the Redskins will be facing top run defenses or the O-line isn’t clicking, and it’ll be on the backs to find space anyway. Football is largely about the 11 guys on each side of the ball, but sometimes, one player has to emerge and succeed on his own.
None of Gruden’s options showed that ability at M&T Bank Stadium, though. And while the fortunate part about preseason games is that they don’t matter, for an offense that can be deadly if given a consistent rushing attack, an uninspired debut performance feels like something that should matter at least a little.