By Steve Shoup, special to Breaking Burgundy
Through two weeks the Redskins lead the NFL in rushing with 343 yards on 74 attempts, for an excellent 4.6 yards per carry average. They are averaging 171.5 yards per game, which is a drastic improvement over the 105.7 yards per game average they had a year ago. The 170+ yard per game average is likely not sustainable, as only one team (2014 Seahawks) managed that over the past 5 seasons. Washington clearly is poised to be among the league leaders this season in rushing, and a lot of that has to do with the addition of new offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Callahan was hired this offseason to oversee the offensive line and finally get that unit into shape, but his responsibilities go beyond teaching the OL. Callahan like most other offensive line coaches are responsible for the running game plan and the move has paid early dividends for the Redskins offense. Now the question is can they keep it up for the rest of the season?
Looking at Callahan’s coaching career there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic that the Redskins can maintain a top level or rushing production.
Callahan has been an offensive line, offensive coordinator, head coach or assistant head coach for 16 NFL seasons. During that time his rushing attacks have finished in the top 5 or top 10 multiple times in each of the 4 main rushing categories:
Top 5: 6 Top 10: 8
Top 5: 6 Top 10: 9
Top 5: 8 Top 10: 10
Yards per attempt:
Top 5: 4 Top 10: 9
Now some might say that hovering around 50% success rate isn’t that great and point to individual years where his rushing attack struggled as a negative, but that criticism is flawed. It doesn’t matter what specialty coach has, he’s going to have years where his unit under-performs. Also if a coach doesn’t have the right personnel he’s going to have a tough time being successful. Take for instance Callahan’s first two years in Dallas when they were 31st and 24th in the league in rushing yards. The Cowboys offensive line was young/undermanned and top running back DeMarco Murray couldn’t stay healthy. In 2014 of course the talent along the line came together and Murray was healthy which led to Murray leading the NFL in rushing and the Cowboys finishing in the top 5 of every category.
The good news for the Redskins going forward is they appear to have the talent along the offensive line and at running back that Callahan craves.
Callahan is known as the premier offensive line coach in the league, but he still needs talent to work with and mold. This year the Redskins went out and got Callahan that talent with their top overall pick guard Brandon Scherff. Scherff pairing with All-pro LT Trent Williams is a great start to the offensive line, that has been further bolstered by the development of 2nd year RT Morgan Moses who looked lost at times as a rookie, has had a strong camp, preseason and first two weeks. He’s a great example of what Callahan’s impact means to this unit, as it was always clear that Moses had the potential, but he just needed the right coaching to get the most out of his potential.
At running back Alfred Morris has run for over 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons and is one of the better running backs in the league. In the 3rd round of the draft the Redskins added Matt Jones from Florida as a power back complement to Morris. While the pick raised some eyebrows at first, Jones has looked great running in this offense in the preseason and last week versus the Rams.
Morris and Jones give the Redskins two capable backs, who paired with this offensive line and Callahan’s coaching a great chance to carry this offense. The Redskins might not end up leading the league in rushing, but with the way their rushing attack is clicking they are a safe bet to be in the top 10 if not top 5 this season.
Steve is the founder of Fanspeak.com. Click here for the Fanspeak On the Clock Premium NFL Draft Simulator