ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -Clinton Portis wore a black balaclava under his helmet to protect himself from the wind and the rain during Thursday's practice at Redskins Park.
``This is how it's going to be on Sunday in New York,'' said the Florida native, attempting to put the best possible spin on the miserable conditions.
The weather outside will indeed be frightful, if the forecast is correct, when the Washington Redskins visit the New York Giants on Sunday night. Rain, snow and strong winds are expected in the Meadowlands, which usually means a busy night for running backs.
``You can't go out and throw the ball 70 times, unless you're Brett Favre, in this kind of weather,'' Portis said.
If that's the case, the Redskins need to figure out how to get the ground attack going. In his last two games, Portis has carried the ball 42 times for just 86 yards, barely more than 2 yards per carry. A back could simply take one big step and fall forward on his face every time and average that much.
``Our run game hasn't been as productive as we'd like it to be the last several games,'' assistant coach Al Saunders said. ``But we've kind of augmented that by being a little more effective in the passing game. You'd like to be able to do both.''
Around midseason, the Redskins had the opposite problem. Portis had big games back-to-back against the New York Jets and Philadelphia, but quarterback Jason Campbell had yet to produce a big-yardage passing game. Then, when the offense started to rely more on the no-huddle spread formation, Campbell started piling up the yards while Portis could barely escape the line of scrimmage.
Portis' longest run over the last four weeks? Eleven yards. He's run for only four touchdowns in the last 10 weeks, a result of a season-long inability to finish drives in the red zone that has helped put the Redskins (6-7) close to elimination from the playoff race.
``We've got to find a way to run and pass,'' Portis said. ``We can't let them make us one-dimensional.''
The running game has been hurt by repeated changes along the offensive line. Right tackle Jon Jansen was lost for the season when he broke his leg in Week 1, and right guard Randy Thomas' attempt to return from an arm injury ended Thursday when he was placed on injured reserve.
Left guard Pete Kendall hasn't missed a game, but he often sits out practice because of wear and tear on his knees. Jansen's replacement, Todd Wade, has also had knee trouble and has lost his starting spot to rookie free agent Stephon Heyer.
None of which bodes well against a defense that leads the league in sacks and is seventh against the run. Heyer has shown promise this season, but he's going to need help to hold his own against perennial force Michael Strahan.
And, by the way, Washington's quarterback will be Todd Collins, making his first start in 10 years because Campbell is out with a knee injury.
``Hopefully we can go out there and run the ball really well,'' left tackle Chris Samuels said, ``take some pressure off the quarterback, take a lot of pressure off us up front pass-blocking.''
Kendall said the Redskins have identified some of the rushing game's breakdowns on film, but he also emphasized the offense doesn't need to marry itself to the idea of forcing the run.
``You do whatever it is you have to do to win the game,'' Kendall said. ``We've seen plenty of examples this year where there's some good teams that don't even bother trying to run the football - between them, Dallas and New England, they have a loss. So I don't think it'll hurt anybody's ego in this room if we throw the ball well enough to win the game.''
Coach Joe Gibbs, though, was quick to dampen any thought that the Redskins could take the approach used by the Cowboys or Patriots.
``We've got only a couple of teams up here good enough to just go out and throw it,'' Gibbs said. ``Everybody else has got to have some kind of balance in there.''
If anything, the balance could tip the other way Sunday if weather gets really nasty. Another Floridian, receiver Santana Moss, said he has to be more careful about catching the ball before making a move in bad conditions. He'd be totally in favor of seeing the running game carry the load in the wind and the rain.
``We have to get it going again,'' Moss said, ``And I think this is the best time to get it going.''

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