Its been four difficult weeks for the Redskins' run game, as they've struggled to reach 50 yards each week and Alfred Morris has yet to get going. As the second half of the season starts, they're hoping to change that.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the Washington Redskins' inability to get the run game turned around in recent weeks is the fact that there isn't one facet in particular that is causing problems.
"It's somebody different all the time," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "It might be the center, it might be the left guard, might be the right guard, might be the tight end. [Derek] Carrier missed on one. Center missed on one. Morgan Moses missed on one. The back missed a cut or two. We're, quite frankly, at running back, we've got to do a better job of if the hole is not there, we've got to make one. We've got to run through some tackles from time to time. It's a combination of a lot of things."
In fact, it is the worst four-game rushing yardage stretch in the Redskins' 83-year history and is one of the lowest totals in the NFL over the last 20 years.
Gruden knows this, and so too do Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, the team's top two running backs.
"We haven't had an answer since the third week of the season as to why our run game hasn't been working," said Morris, who rushed for 10 yards on four carries last Sunday against the New England Patriots. "It just hasn't. We don't know why. We were able to see some holes early on. I know Matt Jones did a good job early on exploiting opportunities and making the most of them, but they did a good job of game planning."
Gruden has reiterated for weeks now that the team must find ways to get Morris, a two-time Pro Bowler, going, but he the numbers show he hasn't been able to outside of the first two weeks of the season.
Over the last six games, Morris has amassed just 52 carries for 132 yards.
He also has yet to score a touchdown this season.
Jones, meanwhile, had an up and down first half to his rookie season, as he paces the Redskins with three touchdown runs, but he also has three lost fumbles.
Against the Patriots, the University of Florida product fumbled on the Redskins' first drive of the third quarter in New England territory.
"The defensive lineman got up the field and got his hand right on the ball as soon as I got the handoff," Jones said. "It was a real tough play that gave them momentum."
Check out images of fourth-year running back Alfred Morris during the 2015 offseason.
Gruden said that according to running backs coach Randy Jordan, regardless of what happened with this exchange or any other issue for that matter, whenever the ball touches the running back's hands, "it's his responsibility."
"He got the ball and I think it was [Alan] Branch made a nice play," Gruden said. "Got his arm in there right simultaneously. You'd like to see him hang on to that, no question about it, but it was a heck of a play by Branch. It was poorly blocked."
Perhaps part of their struggles have been the changes across a young offensive line.
Only Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff have appeared in every game this season for the offensive line, but they're both still in their first year of starting.
Spencer Long, meanwhile, is playing at a new position, left guard, and the team has been without Kory Lichtensteiger, a calming veteran presence, at center the last three weeks.
"We have a right guard that's a rookie and a right tackle who just started playing, too. We have some young people," Gruden said. "We have a left guard that just started playing. This is his second year, but really his first year playing at left guard. We have a rookie running back. We have a tight end that just got here five or six weeks ago and Jordan Reed who is more of a pass-catching tight end. We aren't exactly, you know, one cohesive unit, a finished product yet. We're working towards that. We're going to get to that, but we still have some things we're going to work out from a youth standpoint, working together, playing together and they will work on that."
The Redskins on Sunday will face one of the league's most porous defenses, as the Saints give up nearly 415 yards per game – second worst in the league.
Against the run, they give up 122.6 yards per game and have allowed seven rushing touchdowns.
"This is a big game for us. It's a home game," Gruden said. "We always stress our home games, but we have to come out faster. We're playing another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees, an excellent coach – Sean Payton. It's going to be a great challenge for these guys and we have to come out faster. We can't keep digging ourselves into 17-0 holes and expect to have a successful season or games. So, we've got to make sure we do a better job of coming out of the tunnel and strapping up, being ready to play quicker, play faster and start faster so we can implement our game plan and we can play with a lead and play to our strengths."