Redskins Needs In Offensive Backfield

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Bulldog

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Clinton Portis put up almost 1,500 yards and 9 TDs last year on a club where the passing game was at times constipated and the offensive line overchallenged.

That said, it is clear now after 4 plus seasons in Washington that Clinton Portis is now an inside the tackles runner. He is no longer a threat on the outside as he was in Denver. His running style changed to fit in with Gibbs' offense and that style at age 28 now defines him.

The problem is that Ladell Betts and Clinton Portis are now the 'same' back and no longer complementary. Betts is also a between the tackles rusher, albeit one with less initial acceleration and less durability.

The Redskins greatest need is to find a back that can hit the home run - provide that burst to the outside and turn a defense. I don't see that type of runner on the roster and I think to some degree the offense will suffer for it.

An analogous situation is the one in Dallas. The Cowboys offense was very productive early in 2008 when Felix Jones was providing that outside threat to balance the strong inside game of Marion Barber.

When Jones went down, Barber's productivity suffered as teams were able to key on him and clog the box with extra defenders. Jones' presence prevented defenses from being able to sell out to stop Barber.

While Betts is a decent player, both he and Rock Cartwright are 29 years old and at some point the Redskins need to develop an understudy to Portis.

I understand that not all depth issues can be addressed in a single offseason and certainly the needs on the DL, OL and at CB with the release of Springs were more pressing immediate needs.

But for the running game to get to the next level the team needs that speed back who can spot but not replace Portis in the short-term.
 

Boone

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There goes another great blog-entry :)

Yeah, I don't know that I've seen anyone else anywhere reference this, but it's a dead-on assessment. And I worry that, by the time we do add the speed/elusiveness factor to the backfield, Portis will have begun the inevitable slow-down you see in almost all backs of his style subjected to 16 games per year of repetitive punishing pounding.
 

Miles Monroe

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I honestly think we need to be grooming at least two backs. I completely agree that we need that edge speed in a rusher, but also think Portis's replacement should be a high priority. The inside rushing has banged him up, and his durability hasn't been the best if ya think about it. His problem is he doesn't no when to come out of a game when hurt. I admire his grit and determination, but he pushes to borderline counterproductive. I don't see him lasting as the "go to guy" more then another season, maybe two at best.

Some say that running backs are a dime a dozen, and it seems many teams find them all the time. We haven't been that lucky, but can't wait till it's too late with Portis.
 

Grumpy Vet

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I think it is the #3 need on the team.

#1 - QB..is Jason it? If not - find a replacement now.
#2 - WR - who is stepping up to be our WR corp? Needs to be this year.
#3 - RB - who is heir apparent to CP? CP's clock is ticking and Betts/Cartwright is not the long term answer.
 

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When Jones went down, Barber's productivity suffered as teams were able to key on him and clog the box with extra defenders. Jones' presence prevented defenses from being able to sell out to stop Barber.
I hear this a lot but, with all due respect, I don't buy it. Jones and Barber were rarely in the same backfield together. Usually if one was in the backfield, the other was on the sideline. If they were both in the game, Jones was usually lined up outside on the line as a receiver. There is no way for one to take the defensive pressure off the other when standing on the sideline.

Maybe I don't understand what you mean Bulldog but if Barber had issues once Jones went down it was, IMHO, because his carries went up and he was tired.

While I embrace the idea of a second back who is different in style from the first, it has nothing to do with the idea of providing another key for the defense to think about. How often were Riggins and Washington in the backfield together? Or Jones and Washington today for the Jets? Taylor and Petersen for the Vikings? Barber and Jacobs for the Giants? We could go on like this for a while.

In the modern game of football, it is rare to find two guys who are both ball carriers living in the same backfield on the same play very often. More common is the fullback who gets a dozen to two dozen token carries a season but usually blocks for the primary ball carriers or a 3 WR set with a single back or a 2 WR, 2 TE set with a single back.
 
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Boone

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I'll let Bulldog answer for himself, but I guess where I thought he was going was that if teams know you don't have the personnel to challenge the edges, it makes it a lot easier to stack the box and punish the back you know is only going to hit a couple of holes. It's not a matter of individual plays, it impacts the cumulative defensive gameplan when they know you don't have a guy who can consistently turn the corner.
 

Chris

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That's why we use the quick screen to Santana regularly. It's nothing but an alternate way to get an edge rusher.
 

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Last year the run game died not only b/c of the O-line falling apart, but b/c Portis got pretty banged up after the Steelers game. Betts was already injured and nobody else stepped up.

Last year it seemed that Portis had to carry the load b/c frankly there was no one else. Betts and Alexander seemed ineffective. Rock was rarely used (although also ineffective in his few carries). Mike Sellers is a beast but not the ball carrying FB like Leron McClain.

Plus, the Skins needed a complementary back to Portis and last year they didn't have one. This year they're hoping either Dorsey or Aldrige could be that guy. Mason also, could be that possiblity if not as the home run hitter but as a guy who can reduce CP's load with his agility.
 

Ax

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I don't know. I still think if the passing game can become a consistent threat, and of course I believe it will, CP will gain more yards, on fewer carries, as defenses won't be able to just double Santana, and go after CP.

And, while he ain't no Bo Jackson, I think CP has enough speed to burn a defense that thinks he can't get outside anymore.

Reminds me of that horrible day in 1979 when we lost to Dallas 35-34. No sooner had Jim Brown gotten the words out of his mouth, "I like Riggins, but he doesn't have the speed to get outside", that big John broke to the outside, and outran everybody 66 yds for the score.

I do hope one of the scat backs we brought in can come in and scare the begesus out of people 5-10 times a game, and I realize we will have to start looking closer at the future of the RB position sooner rather than later. But right now, I'm still thinking, if CP can do all he has, with no consistent passing attack, and limited stretches of uninjured/effective blocking, oh my, if he ever gets it, we're in for a treat.
 
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Miles Monroe

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That's why we use the quick screen to Santana regularly. It's nothing but an alternate way to get an edge rusher.
But teams caught on quickly, and the play became ineffective for the most part. It rarely made it to the second level of the secondary.
 

Sarge

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Clinton Portis put up almost 1,500 yards and 9 TDs last year on a club where the passing game was at times constipated and the offensive line overchallenged.
There goes another great blog-entry :)
I'll second this Bulldog. Not sure what's going on in your life or how much free time you have, but for years now you've been spot on in 9/10ths of your posts (Hey, nobody's perfect:) ) It be great to see your assessments on here in blog form.
 

fansince62

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Premature to venture an assessment. the run game last season was severely impacted by line blocking scheme/injuries. teams were able to stack...in part...because Cooley was a servicable but not a dominating run blocker. additionally, my oberservation...over the years...is that tackles and guards...when pulling....have not always been effective in open space. get the passing game going first and stablize the O-line.......that will solve a lot of run game problems AT LITTLE COST IN TERMS OF ROSTER MANIPULATIONS.
 

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The biggest problem we face coming from last year is the inability for us to put defenses into a base defense and force the defenders trigger counts to rise. Defenses were able to absolutely explode on our plays with LBs committing to the run by a good 2-3 yards before they had to overcome a bad read. In turn, we were unable to capitalize on this though Cooley did have a Pro Bowl year.

While a change of pace back would be nice in the making sure the defense has to cover from sideline to sideline, I would be more inclined to tell you that once we start stretching the field and force defenses to start honoring our mid to long range passing game, then we'll get an true idea on whether or not speed in the backfield is our problem.

We can run the ball and run it well. However, our play action has not been very good because we are unable to stretch the field. Funny how the passing game helps the running game also. Weird.

Sorry for it not being very coherent, but these are the thoughts that pop in my head.
 

Lanky Livingston

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I am with Utah - how can you even begin to comment on Portis, when opposing D's have been keying on the run since 2000? We haven't had a respectable passing game since 1999. Portis may not have the speed he had in Denver, but he is still fast enough to break 20-30-yard runs a couple times a game.

Also, while a "home-run" is pretty to watch, a team that has perfected small ball will win more often than a team full of sluggers. Maybe not an exact analogy, but show me a team with a 1500-yard, 10 TD rusher who never hits the home run, but plays in a top 10 offense, and I'll show you a team that's gonna make the playoffs.

Essentially, the key to the running game this year will be Jason Campbell, Santana Moss, WR #2 (TBD), and Chris Cooley. If they can consistently move the ball through the air, you'll be surprised by how fast Portis looks with actual running room.
 

Chris

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But teams caught on quickly, and the play became ineffective for the most part. It rarely made it to the second level of the secondary.
It would be much more effective with any semblance of a downfield threat. Quick slants, five yard crossing patterns, and 6 yard outs keep the majority of the defense in a position to throttle that play.
 
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Bulldog

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Sorry if I was unclear in the initial post.I was considering a speed back being used situationally, as part of a rotation with Portis. Much as Ricky Irvins was used by Gibbs as a counterpunch to Byner.

I agree the further development of the pass offense will help the run in 2009, hence my rating this need below those on the DL, OL, and CB entering the offseason.

But it sure would be nice to see a Redskins back take a 70 yard pitch or screen to the end zone in a key game.

And I am further becoming convinced even with his performance in 2006 that Betts at 29/30 may not be secure backup inside rusher if CP gets injured in 2009.
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servumtuum

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There have been a lot of good points brought up here but one I think is fairly urgent is get CP down to about 15-18 carries per game. I know he's the "go-to-guy" but another season at 20+ carries per game is almost asking for him to get hurt. I also know Betts isn't going to be the long term solution but he needs to carry the ball more often. He showed what I call "flashes-of-usability" particularly against the Eagles and St. Louis and to a lesser extent New Orleans. It might be a good idea to give him more of the load against teams he's had success running against just to lower the risk of an injury to Portis. If Snyder would agree to such a thing, of course.

And, yes, obviously opening up the passing game would be the ultimate solution to keep defenses from keying on CP. I'll be watching the training camps with particular interest in Anthony Aldridge and Marko Mitchell as potential back-ups in both areas.
 

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