As of a few weeks ago, the Redskins were stuck in the midst of one of their most miserable stretches of rushing futility in team history. They went for a seven weeks span in which they played six games and setting aside a 209-yard rushing performance against the historically awful Saints defense, the Redskins averaged 37 yards per game.
To put that in perspective, the worst rushing team in the NFL this year, the Lions, have averaged 79.3 yards per game. So for five games the Redskins could muster less than half of the rushing yards of the Lions.
In their past three games the Redskins have improved from awful to, well, bad. They averaged 92.3 yards per game against the Cowboys, Eagles, and Bears. If they did that for the whole season they would still rank about 25th in the NFL.
“We'd definitely like to do better than we’ve done, that’s for sure,” said Gruden of the team’s relative resurgence on the ground. “Having Kirk [Cousins] throw the ball – I think it was 31 times in the game – and we rushed the ball right around 30 times, I think that’s a great recipe for us.”
The actual play call numbers were 34 passes (31 Cousins attempts and three sacks) and 33 runs. Gruden’s point certainly stands.
However Gruden noted that with an average per carry of 2.9 yards per carry over the last three games, the ground attack isn’t nearly as efficient as it needs to be.
“We’ve got to get our average up,” said Gruden. “When we’re running on first down, we’re getting one or two yards. I think in the first half we averaged 2.5 yards per carry. Again, challenged the guys at halftime and they upped the ante a little bit. But still we need to demand a little bit more from our running game but the commitment is there. We’ve just got to do better at blocking and running.”
In addition to being a problem on first down and in the first half, the puny rushing average has made it difficult for the Redskins to run out the clock late against the Giants and Bears. Both of those teams got a shot with the ball in the late going to give the Redskins and their fans a scare before the clock ran out.