The Redskins’ running game has been sputtering in the preseason, and that is putting it lightly.
When Washington’s first-team offense has faced the opponents’ first-team defense they have attempted 13 rushes and they have 13 yards.
That isn’t getting it done and Jay Gruden knows it.
“Obviously, Robert [Kelley] didn’t get going, he didn’t have many chances,” he said following the Redkins' 20-17 loss to the Packers. “You know, we’re a work in progress, no question about it. We’re building something and we’ve got to do some things and quite frankly we didn’t get them done today, but I’m not going to give up on it by any stretch of imagination. We’ve just got to continue with our plan and build on what we’ve done, or haven’t done, learn from it, move on and get ready for the Bengals and try to figure out a new plan.”
Kelley, the Redskins’ starting running back, has 12 carries for 11 yards in the two preseason games, including some carries against the other team’s reserve defenders.
While it doesn’t take advanced film study to realize that the low production is primarily due to him having nowhere to run, Kelley still believes he must do better.
“I just have to be a better runner,” the second-year back said. “I have to make stuff happen and get back to what I was doing last year, breaking some tackles, trying to make some guys miss. That’s what the pay you for. Anyone can get there if there’s a wide open hole.”
Yes, Kelley is getting paid to run. But is making the second-year minimum salary. All five of the offensive line starters are being paid well over $1 million this year to create space forhim and they haven’t been able to get the job done.
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The highest-paid player up front is left tackle Trent Williams. He is in his eighth season and he isn’t losing any sleep over the one yard per carry rushing average.
“I’m just not worried,” he said.
“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things start to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”
But Williams does know that it’s not going to get better unless they work at it. And that’s why he and the rest of the line stayed in the game with there was talk of putting the second unit into the game.
“They wanted to sub but we said we were staying in,” said Williams. “We didn’t feel like we had it going good enough to call it a game . . . I just heard the O-line folks say, ‘twos up’, I really just ignored it, I put my helmet on and stood on the sideline ready to run back on the field.”
“I wasn’t going to leave on that note two weeks in a row.”
The Redskins’ starters finally got some offense going when the Packers put in their backup defenders. But it mostly was through the air; Washington finished the first half with 10 yards rushing.
But Williams has faith that more reps and having a chance to continue in the game to keep wearing down the defense will make it come together.
“You’re not going to open the game just gashing people,” he said. “You never make the rock break on the first strike.”
Or on the second try, in this case. Their next chance to strike the rock comes next Sunday against the Bengals at FedEx Field. That will be their last shot at fixing the running game before the games start to count.