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Early On, Redskins' Ground Game a Work In Progress


Larry Johnson took a handoff from Richard Bartel late in the fourth quarter of Friday's preseason game against the New York Jets.

He raced around right end.

Finally, a seam.

Finally some running room.

Johnson burst through and picked up 18 yards, the longest Redskins run of preseason. He finished the game with 42 yards on nine carries, although most of those runs came against the Jets' backups.

The Redskins' ground game had been bottled up in preseason games against the Baltimore Ravens and through the first three quarters against the Jets.

In a start against the Ravens on Aug. 13, Johnson had eight carries for just four yards against the Ravens.

Parker started against the Jets and had eight carries for 16 yards.

In three preseason games so far, the Redskins' running backs have averaged just 3.2 yards per carry.

Head coach Mike Shanahan said on Sunday that the offense has a "ways to go" in establishing the run.

He also preached perspective.

"We have played two pretty good defenses [in preseason] and we haven't had much of a game plan," Shanahan said. "Our running game will get there. It is a process. But that was a very respectable defense we played at the Jets and also with Baltimore. They are two very good teams.

"You've got to really have a game plan you have to really be committed to run the ball against those two football teams. It is not going to be much tougher than that."

Johnson agreed, saying that coaches wanted to develop the passing offense in preseason.

"Our emphasis hasn't been on the run," he said. "We have talented running backs here -- the worry wasn't on whether we could run the ball. Coaches wanted to know who could be the step-up receiver, who was going to be able to back up Joey Galloway and Santana Moss."

"It's different when you game plan and obviously you don't want to show other teams your bread and butter play package. You're kind of sporadic with the play-calling because you have to cover up some things that you want to show against Dallas."

Artis Hicks is on the front lines of the Redskins' ground game.

He suggested that the Redskins' running backs each "bring something different to the table" – which requires an adjustment in how the linemen block for them.

Linemen may maintain leverage longer when Portis is running the ball to give him time to find the rushing lane, Hicks said.

"It's just a matter of playing together and getting in sync with whatever running back is back there," Hicks said. "I think it's going to be a work in progress and it's going to continue to be well into the season.

"That's the great thing about this zone offense. As long as everyone is on the same page, it's going to [result in] plus runs."

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