By Kevin Ross II
At the inception of the 2015 regular season, the Redskins rush attack seemed to be the pulse of the ball club. The combination of Alfred Morris and Matt Jones seemed to severely tire out defenses as the two could dominate a game. The franchise was beginning to embrace the identity of a ball control offense, fueled by a physical yet explosive run game.
And then the wheels came crashing off, and the running attack became non-existent. Most pointed to the fact that Alfred Morris seemed to run timid, and lacked the burst that he typically played with. Others blamed Matt Jones and his fumbling antics and pointed to the fact that the coaching staff had lost faith in handing him the ball. The football experts actually blamed the diminished rush attack on Kirk Cousin’s inability to stretch the field with deep passing, which allowed for an extra man in the box. All of these theories make up a small portion of the pie to explain Washington run woes, but the largest piece of the pie was missed by the majority.
In Weeks 1-4 of the regular season, Alfred Morris and Matt Jones combined for a beastly 115 rush yards per game. The team boasted a 2-2 record with impressive wins over the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles. Just as the running attack was trending up, a major catastrophe occurred and things fell off of a cliff. The Redskins lost the heart and soul of their rushing attack, center Kory Lichtensteiger, who was placed on season-ending injury reserve after hurting his neck against Atlanta in Week 5.
In the four games that Lichtensteiger was healthy, Morris and Jones appeared to be a legitimate two-headed monster. Without Kory in the lineup, Jones and Morris have combined for 65 rushing yards per game. In fact, Alfred Morris and Matt Jones finished the regular season averaging an abysmal 3.7 and 3.5 yards per carry. What people didn’t understand was that the lost of Lichtensteiger was paramount, as he is one of the smartest centers in the game, and was responsible for dictating the offensive line’s blocking schemes on run plays.
“Kory is like another quarterback on the field,” said Coach Jay Gruden. “He is very, very intelligent, not to say Josh [LeRibeus] isn’t, but he’s got a great handle on the offense – his calls. Obviously his snaps are very good. He’s very quick getting up to the second level. You know, it’s just a matter of him getting back into football shape and making sure that he’s in that position and then physically to make sure he bangs around and feels good with that shoulder and arm, but he looks good so far.”
Lichtensteiger has now been deemed healthy; he was back practicing with the first unit in this week’s practice sessions and he is certain to return to the field barring any setbacks. Having a strong rush attack combined with Kirk Cousins playing like a top 5 NFL quarterback could be enough to plummet Washington deep into the playoffs, if not further
Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.