It's remarkable how much better the running game looked this past Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars compared to previous weeks. I think we saw a lot of new wrinkles, including the offensive line hitting their blocks better, more utilization of the run game on the semi-draw plays, and Chris Ogbonnaya even getting a few nice little spin moves in there.
Is it frustrating that Ogbonnaya doesn't have "breakaway" speed? Yes, because it looked as though a faster player could have had a few bigger runs on Sunday. At the end of the day though, he held onto the football as a runner and a receiver, and finished the game with 21 carries for 115 yards and 1 touchdown to go along with 2 receptions for 19 yards.
Shurmur has already ruled out Peyton Hillis for this week's game against the Bengals, and it seems like they don't want to make the same mistake of bringing him back too early. Hardesty, on the other hand, is still a candidate to play this week. Shurmur was asked a few other questions about Ogbonnaya, Hardesty, and Hillis, which are highlighted after the jump.
(On if he was frustrated by Ogbonnaya running out of bounds during his 40-yard run) - "Well, that was a very long gain and at that point, I wouldn’t say we were dead into four-minute yet. We had changed the field there. You instruct the quarterback, he’s in with 20 (seconds on play clock), makes the play call, out with 12 and then try to snap it as close to one (second) as possible. At that point, it was such a long run and I was worried he pulled his hamstring. My understanding is he didn’t. The players are aware, when we’re in four-minute, which means we’re trying to move the ball, get first downs, stay in bounds, that is the one time when you’re killing clock when unless the guy is extremely wide open you can take a sack. The situation that dictates that, then you want to stay in bounds. At the end of the day, should he have probably stayed in bounds there? Probably, but at that point I didn’t tell them in the huddle yet it was four-minute."
(On the possibility of Ogbonnaya becoming the featured back) - "I think you play the best players and the guys that have produced you put them on the field. I think Chris has been very productive. He’s done things for our team that will warrant him playing, at least some, when our other guys come back. We’ll just see how it goes when they come back. I’m not concerned about that. That’s a good problem to have, when you have a line of guys that you feel good about."
(On how close
Montario Hardesty was to playing yesterday) - "We felt like he was close. I would probably approach this week much like we did last week. I’m hopeful and so as he goes through the week we’ll get him (going). You have to be a little bit careful with this one, being it’s a calf on a runner. For those of as that walk a calf injury might not be a big deal, but for a runner we’ve just got to make sure he right."
(On if he feels Hillis will come back this year) - "I’m hopeful that he will. Based on how he’s rehabbing his hamstring I would anticipate that he’ll be back soon. I can’t tell you yet exactly, that’s the thing. Each guy is different."
(On the offensive line’s performance) - "I felt like
Shawn Lauvao did a nice job. In our opinion I think he played his best game. That’s one guy. Tony Pashos played very hard. I thought we had a good performance really out of all of them. If I had to single one guy out, probably Shawn Lauvao. Again, amongst the guys I thought they all played pretty well together."
I will highlight the rest of his press conference a little later today.