Redskins' 'Five Guys' Go Nowhere Fast
"Yeah, we definitely are five guys at tailback who are going out and trying to compete and learn from each other," said the youngest of the bunch, rookie Keiland Williams, who was part of a 14-carry, 25-yard rushing disaster in Washington's 23-3 preseason loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Williams laughed when he was told that "Five Guys" sounds a lot like the burger joints in this region that are becoming fanciful nationwide.
"No, we have our own version," he said.
How about flipping the entire group?
There is work to do.
Clinton Portis: 2 carries, 14 yards. Williams: 2 carries, 6 yards. Larry Johnson: 8 carries, 4 yards. Ryan Torain: 1 carry, 2 yards. Willie Parker: 1 carry, -1 yard.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said his team went into this affair scrutinizing its passing game; hence, the 47 passes and just 14 runs.
Sure, the Ravens' front is stout, one reason it will be one of the "top two or three rush defenses in the league," Shanahan said. And certainly, the Redskins did not game plan for Baltimore's pulverizing rush defense.
But 14 carries for 25 yards is 14 carries for 25 yards.
Compare that with the Ravens throwing it 40 times but still managing to rush 29 times for 143 yards.
When Shanahan put this group together, this band of former Pro Bowl backs in Portis, Johnson and Parker, mixed with a familiar back he had in Denver (Torain) and the newcomer Williams, he was certain he had a group of downhill runners who did not often lose yardage.
The thinking here is that the Redskins will keep four of these backs on their roster along with fullback Mike Sellers (and maybe fullback Darrel Young on the practice squad).
That means one guy, at least, among the five tailbacks will be chucked.
"I have a gut feeling for that, I have been doing this a long time, but my history and that of coach Shanahan is we are not afraid to go with surprises," Redskins assistant head coach and running backs coach Bobby Turner said. "We have a bunch of backs with egos. They are all competing, bell-ringing every day. We've got a lot of evaluating going on. This is only two preseason games into that. I want it to be complicated. I want to not be able to sleep at night along with our other coaches trying to make the decision on which running backs make our roster. We want the competition to bring that."
The way the Redskins have approached it thus far: Portis started the first game against Buffalo; Johnson started against the Ravens; Parker will start in the next preseason game against the Jets.
Johnson struggled on short-yardage runs, tripping over his own players in the backfield, punished by the Ravens' penetration.
"I have to go back to the drawing board," he said. "It was disappointing for me. The Ravens played like they had something to prove. But our group of backs has a lot to prove, too. I wouldn't be surprised if people saw what I did tonight and think I can't run it anymore. But that's not the case. And hopefully, I will get a chance to show that again."
Torain said that Portis is versatile, Parker is smart, Johnson is a great runner with a great personality and that Williams is strong. He described himself as versatile.
He said this is a fight.
"You got to fight to get what you want," Torain said.
But unless this group picks it up, Shanahan might well be looking around the league at backs who are cut who might be better than one or two here.
Parker knows his outing against the Jets could be defining for him. He has heard the buzz around here that, among the five guys, he currently would be the first to go.
"I have heard that," Parker said. "And it's not the first time I've heard that. Next week against the Jets, that means everything. I'm all for it. This offense is good for a running back, though tonight was not very good for us."
No, it was not.
The Redskins' backs simply looked like five guys.