Positional Analysis: Running Backs

Today we start our series on positional analysis. What went right: The Redskins showed some hope early that they could generate a ground game using a Smash 'n' Dash approach with Ladell Betts and Trung Canidate. Also, the line showed that it could run block, something it did consistently from the time training camp opened. So what went wrong?

What went wrong: Canidate showed flashes that he could help and he tried, at times, to be a hard-nosed runner. When the holes were big, he was fine. But he couldn't generate any yards on his own. And Betts never showed he could be the fulltime back, mainly because he was never healthy. The Redskins wanted speed and got left with a reincarnation of the Smurfs. That's not what you want in the backfield. It also hurt their blitz pickups.

Who should stay: Three players should definitely remain and probably a fourth because he doesn't cost that much. Fullback Bryan Johnson, because of his special teams play and effort, is fine. Rock Cartwright's size works against him and that could land him in trouble. After all, if another big back comes in, there's little need for a small short-yardage runner. Chad Morton sticks because of his return duties and potential as a third-down back. Ladell Betts should get one more shot, but he must shape up. Injuries slowed him this season, but so, too, has his sloppy approach to details. If that doesn't improve, he'll be gone.

Who should go: Trung Canidate and Sultan McCullough. The owner fell in love with speed and that's how both players landed on the roster. Let's repeat: Canidate is not a third-down back. He has inconsistent hands, doesn't block well and doesn't run good routes. Nor is he elusive in the open field. He doesn't fit the profile of a Joe Gibbs back. McCullough isn't much of a player and probably won't be for Gibbs.

What should the Redskins do: If they can't get Corey Dillon, or some other power back, there's enough depth in the draft to select a running back in the second round (they have the ninth pick in the second round, but it's No. 40 overall because Houston selected a player in the supplemental draft). Michigan's Chris Perry would fit well with what Gibbs wants, but he might not be available.


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