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Redskins running backs: Shanahan unclear on Keiland Williams' demotion

November 29, 2010 - 03:36 PM
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After being a big part of Washington's offense in the two previous games, Keiland Williams had only six touches against the Vikings. (Photo: Associated Press)

Mike Shanahan offered little explanation as to why Keiland Williams went from being a big part of the offense in a win two weeks ago to being a seldom-used piece against the Vikings when asked today. The coach also said today that he doesn't know who the team's starting running back will be this Sunday against the New York Giants.

When Clinton Portis (who is scheduled to have surgery on his torn abdomen muscle on Tuesday) went on injured reserve, it appeared that Williams would take over as the Redskins’ feature back. Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had both said that Williams would start and James Davis would spell him.

But on Sunday against the Vikings, Davis took over on the Redskins’ second possession and got twice as many carries as did Williams. The Redskins abandoned the run, so neither back got many opportunities. Davis had 11 yards on six carries, and Williams had five yards on three carries as Washington mustered only 29 yards on 13 carries.

But Williams’ drastic drop-off in production was a head-scratcher considering he had 29 touches in a week before with 23 carries for 68 yards and six catches for 27 yards while pacing the Redskins in their best offensive outing of the year. The week before, against Philadelphia, Williams had 89 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and also had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown.

When asked why Williams wasn’t involved as much, Shanahan offered a vague explanation.

“Well, No. 1, we had the ball 54 snaps compared to 90, so there’s a big difference there, and if you do the math, there’s a pretty good indication why people had less touches,” Shanahan said. “For us to be effective we have to get first downs to run the ball. When you have 20 plays in the second half, good things aren’t going to happen.”

Asked again why Davis had more carries than Williams, Shanahan said, “We wanted to take a look at James and how he carried the ball, and fortunately he didn’t get as many as we would’ve liked.”

Shanahan said that Williams’ decrease in activity wasn’t because of displeasure with Williams, however, and instead indicated that he wanted to experiment with his running backs against the Vikings.

“I like both guys. I like James as well as Keiland,” Shanahan said. “Keiland has done a good job on third down, and well as doing a good job carrying the ball on first and second downs. More of an evaluation of another back after a few good days of practice. I’ve got confidence in both of those guys.”

Shanahan said that he won’t know who is going to start at running back on Sunday because Ryan Torain and his strained hamstring could possibly be healthy enough to return this week. The Redskins won’t know for sure, however, until later this week.

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