Redskins' run game continues to hurt offense

The Redskins' running game totaled only 14 yards on 12 carries Sunday. Chris Thompson rushed for 10 of those yards. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

ASHBURN, Va. -- Five observations on the Washington Redskins' offense after Sunday's 44-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

  1. The inability to run the ball, once again, was a main culprit for the offensive woes. The turnovers, obviously, were the big killer, but they had been better in that area entering the game (they were even in differential). But they’ve only run the ball well once in the past six games. During that span, they’ve finished one game -- one! -- averaging more than 2.63 yards per carry. For a team that was built to run the ball -- and wanted to run the ball -- that’s a major problem. The offensive line’s inexperience is a big part of the situation; everyone up front was beaten one-on-one at times. They consistently lost their battles. While more attempts are needed, it’s hard to get them when you turn it over or average only 1.17 per carry (yes, small sample size).

  2. Had someone told me the Redskins would struggle to run the ball this season, there’s no way I’d have predicted them to win even six games. No way. My guess: The coaches would probably say the same thing. The loss of center Kory Lichtensteiger remains critical; he wasn’t playing at a Pro Bowl level mind you, but there were no issues with snaps -- whether errant or too early -- and he excelled in making calls. It might be the most underrated loss of the season. Right tackle Morgan Moses has been “beaten” on a couple plays in recent weeks because of poorly-timed snaps. On one sack, as Kirk Cousins catches the ball, almost everyone else on the Redskins was standing still. So left tackle Trent Williams can’t stop the end and even running back Chris Thompson couldn’t because, well, he wasn’t expecting the ball to be snapped. Josh LeRibeus is still transitioning to center, but the reason the previous staff stopped trying him at this spot was because of his snaps. I still like where the line is headed, but it will take time and growing pains (a line I have used many times since camp opened). One thing I’d like to see added in the offseason: More run-blocking tight end options. Yes, they’ll bring back Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen, but they need more options.

  3. Cousins’ interception was bad, but that’s pretty obvious. Had the ball been completed, the Redskins would have had a first down probably at the Carolina 40 – assuming DeSean Jackson didn’t make anyone miss. The fumbles are trickier: When you’re about to throw 2.3 seconds after the snap – without much hesitation -- and the ball is stripped, that’s not on the quarterback (Moses allowed the sack). Yes, I’d say the same thing – and have – about any other quarterback in that situation. On the blitz, Cousins definitely felt he had time (3.3 seconds before he’s hit). The running back on the play, Matt Jones, was responsible for blitz pickups (tight end Derek Carrier was on the blitz side, but it was not his responsibility). That said, the quarterbacks are taught to keep two hands on the ball until you’re ready to throw. Why? Ball security. So, yes, there were some things Cousins could have done better to help (more on him later Tuesday).

  4. It’s not just Jones who must work on ball security. Thompson fumbled because, as he was running, the ball got away from his body, making it an easy target to poke away. He just happened to get lucky, and the Redskins recovered. But on the next play, tight end Jordan Reed fumbled for the same reason. Those are easily correctable mistakes, though sometimes it’s a focus issue. Surely they’ve been told, “tuck the ball!” Jones, in particular, had better start learning to do this considering he’s now fumbled four times. One or two can be explained, but four fumbles in 114 attempts with the ball is a problem.

  5. The Panthers have plenty of good defensive players, but one I thought would give the Redskins fits indeed did: defensive tackle Kawann Short. He didn’t always make the play, but he deserved credit for making it happen. On one Matt Jones run, four Panthers were a yard across the line of scrimmage led by Short, who shoved left tackle Trent Williams back. When Jones took the handoff, he was almost surrounded by four Panthers within a yard or two. On the previous series, Short’s quick penetration to the inside of guard Spencer Long mucked up a play that was otherwise well-blocked. In the run game, one missed block can throw off the entire run.