The Redskins exploded for 230 rushing yards against the Eagles last week - the most in a game since the 2012 season. Now they'll try to find consistency on the ground moving forward.
"Put three backs back there and they all produce, what's that tell you?"
It was a rhetorical question from Redskins center Spencer Long after Sunday's win against the Philadelphia Eagles, but a good one nonetheless. Long and the Redskins had just produced 230 rushing yards – the most by a Washington team in almost four years – against a stout defensive front.
"We've got a heck of an offensive line in here, and hats off to [offensive line] coach [Bill] Callahan," Long continued. "Those guys are all great backs as well. It takes us all."
The "all" Long refers to his quite a few people. Right tackle Morgan Moses calls Callahan a "technician" who provides, "a cheat sheet before the test." Under Callahan's tutelage, the Redskins' offensive line has been referred to as one of the best in the league this season. The holes have consistently been available for Washington runners, which have combined to average 4.8 yards per carry – the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
"We work at this every day at practice, man," Moses said. "Callahan comes up with the gameplan. We see how we work as individuals and we work our tails off on each and every block. Credit to the receivers and Kirk [Cousins]. It takes all 11 guys on the field to get the job done. We're very successful."
The biggest beneficiary has been running back Matt Jones, who set a new career-high with 135 rushing yards in last week's victory. He's had no issue sliding into Washington's lead back duties this season after Alfred Morris departed to Dallas in free agency. Jones has gone from averaging 3.4 yards per carry in 2015 to an impressive 4.9 this season. His 57-yard carry on third down with 1:27 remaining in Sunday's game sealed Washington's fourth consecutive win.
However, Jones isn't the only Washington running back producing.
Third-down back Chris Thompson has averaged 4.6 yards per carry on 20 attempts this season. Then there's the man affectionately referred to as "Fat Rob" – Robert Kelley – who burst loose for a 45-yard carry on Washington's second touchdown drive Sunday. He's ran for 77 yards on eight carries over the past two weeks. Jones and Kelley, who have the similar bruising running styles with sneaky speed and long hair hanging out of the burgundy helmet, have had fun trying to one up each other.
"When I had the first good run, [Kelley] was like 'I see what you did. You opened the scheme up for me,'" Jones said. "So he went in the game and popped his big run, and after that it was like a friendly competition. We (were) happy for each other. I'm excited for him. I'm very excited for him. He's a great, great guy and he comes in and runs like that, nobody can be mad at that. I just wish the best for him and keep on grinding with him each and every day."
Despite last week's breakout game, a consistent run game remains to be seen from the Redskins. Aside from 145 rush yards in Week 4 against Cleveland, Washington hasn't topped 90 yards in its four other contests. Not only does rushing success take pressure off Cousins and the passing game, it also helps the defense. The Redskins had arguably their best defensive game of the season against Philadelphia, limiting the Eagles' offense to just two field goals. On the strength of its run game, Washington held a time of possession edge over Philadelphia of eight and a half minutes.
"They're able to really recover and when they were out there on the field, they were doing a great job just helping us get the ball back," Thompson said. "That's what we train for – to be out there on the field all the time. It's been really good. If we keep it up on offense and keep our defense off the field, unlike we did the first two games – they were out there a lot and we ended up losing those two games. If we can just control the clock, everything will be alright."
Compared to last season, when the Redskins averaged 3.7 yards per carry – 30th in the NFL – the difference is night and day. With the Detroit Lions on deck, a team that ranks 22nd in rushing defense this season, Washington could have another big day on the ground. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden believes consistency among personnel up front is a big reason for the improvement.
"We had a lot of changes on the offensive line last year. I think this is the most continuity we've had week-in and week-out, week-in and week-out," Gruden said. "But now with Spencer entrenched in there at center and [Shawn] Lauvao back, Morgan and Brandon [Scherff] playing together on the same side again for another year with more experience, and of course the all-world guy at left tackle [Trent Williams], makes them better. Not to mention Vernon Davis coming in here. He's a great blocker, he really is. He's helped out tremendously and the backs are running hard."