Maybe it was the name power. Maybe it was the numbers. Or maybe it just seemed a given, because Mike Shanahan always has a great running game, right?
Well, whatever we thought about the Redskins’ backfield a month ago, things have changed. Because despite what was perceived as a terrific trifecta — Clinton Portis, Larry Johnson and Willie Parker — the Redskins have yet to get it going on the ground. In fact, they haven’t even been close.
“Our running game will get there,” Shanahan said this weekend. “It is a process.”
OK, sure, Mike. But is Redskins Nation supposed to feel good that Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams are the leading rushers through three games this preseason?
“There’s always a couple of positions where you’re not really sure,” Shanahan said. “It’s a constant evaluation.”
Well, in that evaluation over the next few days, it is very possible that Johnson and Parker, two former 1,000-yard backs, might be released. And to make matters worse, Portis is suffering from a sprained ankle.
Look, the Redskins -- considering the depth and skill in their division -- probably have an uphill battle ahead of them anyway. But the fact that the running game, Shanahan’s bread-and-butter, isn’t there yet is an alarming trend. One that certainly should give long-term bettors pause, when thinking about their odds to win the NFC East.
And with that, let’s take a look at some other things we learned this preseason…
SANCHEZ OFF THE MARK
Listen, we realize the Jets will only go as far as their defense will allow them to. And we know, with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, that the running game will be the key component on offense.
But what cannot be forgotten is that sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez is going to have to make a play every once in awhile if the Jets are to win the Super Bowl and live up to coach Rex Ryan’s expectations.
The question now, however, after a lackluster preseason, is this: Is that even possible?
Sanchez, in limited duty, had as many interceptions (two) as touchdowns, and registered a ho-hum 75.9 rating.
Not to mention — statistics aside — HBO fans this month have repeatedly heard Sanchez say “I suck” during the “Hard Knocks” series.
Does that sound like the kind of confident quarterback that is set to engineer a Super Bowl run to you?
And remember, all you early-season bettors out there, that Sanchez won’t even have receiver Santonio Holmes with him for the first four games of the season.
THE SAINTS (STILL) MEAN BUSINESS
Somebody tell the Super Bowl-champion Saints that the postseason is over. Because Sean Payton’s troops are still lighting up the scoreboard like they did in January and February.
New Orleans, in three games, has averaged 32.7 points and 422 yards. And their three quarterbacks -- Drew Brees, Chase Daniel and Patrick Ramsey -- all completed passes of more than 45 yards.
Wow. Sounds like the play in the early going will be on Saints overs, right?
“Their number one mission,” Payton said, “is to move the football.”
INSURANCE OFFENSE FOR VIKINGS
With Brett Favre back in the fold, and Percy Harvin recovering from his migraines, it looks like Minnesota will be full speed and ready to resume its Super Bowl mission next week.
But what we learned this preseason, is that they will have plenty of help in the regular season, especially in short-yardage situations.
Look, as great as Adrian Peterson is, sticking him in on those tough-yard situations is a dangerous proposition. Remember, he is fragile. But it appears the Vikings have that solved.
Battering ram rookie running back Toby Gerhart can help lighten Peterson’s load. The former Heisman Trophy finalist out of Stanford ran for 69 yards and 19 carries in three games, and even ripped off a 22-yarder.
Consider that a word to the wise, when it’s late in the fourth quarter, and you need a late run to secure a Vikings cover.
TIME TO GET A T.O.
Listen, say what you will about the drama, about the television time, about the hype machine, what have you, but it appears, clearly, that — when you break it down and talk solely in football terms — receiver Terrell Owens can still play.
Owens has 143 yards receiving in four games with the Bengals and a long of 43 yards.
Carson Palmer has taken advantage, as a result. In very limited duty, he has 387 passing yards and a 70.4 completion rate.
Might the drama-king Bengals have just enough to win their division again? Who knows, but it does appear that they have enough offense to hit an over or two.