Larry Johnson's release came after two games in which he was mostly ineffective on the ground. Jason Reid questions why, if the Redskins were so willing to get rid of Larry Johnson, they didn't just cut him during the offseason.
But if the Redskins apparently thought so little of Johnson to release him after two games and only five rushes (he gained two yards), why include him on the opening 53-man roster in the first place? After Johnson struggled in his first preseason appearance, we wrote that there was concern within the organization about the running back position, and that it would not have been surprising if neither Willie Parker nor Johnson made the roster out of the preseason.
Reid also wonders if jettisoning Johnson, and replacing him with a younger, quicker running back in Chad Simpson, will actually help the running game.
Also, Johnson's release does not address the core problem with Washington's ineffective running game: the offensive line. Top back Clinton Portis has a 3.1-yard average on 31 rushes, and the Redskins produced 18 yards on 17 carries (a 1.1-yard average) in the 30-27 loss in overtime to the Houston Texans.
The offensive line's poor play has been a growing concern internally for some time, according to team sources who have watched as the first-team group has struggled during practice. With three new starters, the line already was in a state of flux to start the preseason. And that was before left guard Derrick Dockery was in danger of losing his starting job to Kory Lichtensteiger, who was out of football last season after being waived by the Minnesota Vikings in late September.
Reid is right. Clinton Portis hasn't been very effective behind this offensive line either. But Johnson is the back up running back, and his skill set doesn't fit that of a third down back, the role he is being asked to fill. The Redskins really need someone who is a better receiver out of the backfield as the backup. Releasing Johnson might not actually help the running game, but it might allow the Redskins to bring in a player who is a better fit in that role.