By Mark Solway
Ever heard the phrase, "The train has left the station?" It is an idiom that means a process is already under way, and there is no point in resisting it. Further to that, it means the time for making objections has passed, and that cooperation in the process is the only option. How fitting is that for newly departed Redskin Ryan Torain?
The 25-year old, third year running back came into the season fresh off the heels of a 2010 season that saw him move into a starting role, and post 742 yards rushing in 8 starts. While the Redskins signed Tim Hightower in the offseason, and drafted running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster, Torain had to figure that the job was still his to lose. And lose it he did. A broken hand in training camp proved to be more than Torain was permitted to have happen, as he never really gained back his starting job.
Coach Mike Shanahan hinted earlier this week, that Torain's problem was consistency, but it's hard to see that as being much more than lip service when the young back was hardly given a chance to either show, or develop any consistency this year. Kyle Shanahan didn't find a fondness for the run game until long after Torain had found his way back to the bench. In the few opportunities that were given to Torain, how much of an emphasis was on the run game at that time?
Would Torain be the first back that needed to find a groove, in order to be effective? It looked like he had found that groove in game four when he was thrust into action after the season-ending injury to Hightower. He looked like a man possessed, and rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. It's easy for the coaching staff to point to a lack of consistency when he struggled the very next game, but was that consistency at running back, or on the always maligned offensive line? Or both? Or neither? Some of Torain's 'opportunity' came on John Beck's watch, and well, everyone knows how that experiment went.
The company line seems to be that Torain was ineffective from the Rams game forward, posting just 65 yards on 40 carries. They'll say that he 'started' four games, and 'played' in seven, but how much of that was politics? Like 'not starting' Helu after he broke the Redskins' all-time receptions in a game mark, but then giving him more action than Torain anyway. If you want to really bang numbers, take a look at what might be the most important one - 40 carries. Is that supposed to be used as a barometer for 'consistency' over even the bloated 'seven' games that the Redskins claim that he played in? If it was seven games, that's less than six carries per game. There aren't a lot of running backs that can show 'consistency' with such a small sample size.
Obviously Helu is the future of this franchise at running back, and Royster has now proven to be a capable back-up, but with Hightower's injury and free agent status, what is really to be gained by cutting Torain? He was under a modest contract for 2012, he already knows the system and he has proven that he CAN play well within the system when given fair opportunity. Now the Redskins have to re-sign an injured Hightower, sign another journeyman back, or draft another back for depth. Seems unnecessary to do anything with Torain, but bring him into camp in 2012 and if he hasn't developed any more 'consistency' - jettison him then.
Taking Torain's place on the roster is Aldrick Robinson. Some say that getting the practice squad wide receiver onto the active roster was part of the reason that Torin was cut, but how is that not just further lip service? No disrespect to Robinson, but having NINE slots on the active roster for wide receivers is just ridiculous. Cut David Anderson (who wasn't even active last week) if you really need a slot for Robinson. That's just propaganda and spin, to say that Torain's departure was to open up Robinson's promotion.
Not buying it for a second. Heck, Helu still isn't practicing, though he says he would like to play against the Eagles. Does he really need to at this point? Why even risk him getting injured further? So throwing him on injured reserve, and giving Robinson that slot wouldn't be out of the question. There are a half dozen alternatives that wouldn't have necessitated cutting a capable 25-year old, modestly paid running back. Regardless of whether or not anyone on the coaching staff thought Torain had what it took to be a valuable contributor to the 2011 squad, there was very little harm or damage to seeing if he could contribute to the 2012 squad. Especially when a slot will be created by virtue of Hightower's free agency status. It seems like a superfluous, and non-sensical personnel move.
So back to the idiom that the 'train has left the station' - that the time for objections has passed, and that cooperation in the process is the only option - it's hard to see Torain as having done anything but just that. He didn't bark about his limited role at any point in the season, and didn't let pride disrupt what little flow the Redskins running game was able to achieve over the course of the season. He was a good citizen, and that fact bears mentioning. It would seem that the process was already under way for Torain early on, and there really was no point in resisting, there was never a plan for him to be part of the equation.
The Torain left the station before the season even started.
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The Redskins filled Robinson's practice squad slot with running back Stafon Johnson. Johnson played college football at USC, and was the player who dropped the weight bar on his throat. He suffered an ankle injury in the 2010 preseason, and did not see any action this year.
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