Positional Anaylsis: Running back

Strengths: As long as Clinton Portis is healthy, this is a strong area.

Strengths: As long as Clinton Portis is healthy, this is a strong area. The guy can do it all and that's something Washington has lacked. Heck, most teams have. Portis obviously is an excellent runner and could set a club rushing record (1,432 yards) in his first season. Portis is not the typical big back employed by Joe Gibbs, but he is strong and capable of hard-nosed runs. But he is more of a home-run threat. What we like is that Portis is willing to pick up blitzes -- an area of weakness here last year. And he can split out wide and catch passes, making him an all-around threat. Portis comes across as a bit immature in person and you wonder how long he'll last here because of that. If he grows up it could be a while. But he doesn't play that way on the field; there, he's a mature team player. Ladell Betts, if healthy, could be a solid backup in this system, one that knows how to best use his style. He's a hard-nosed runner and often made the first guy miss last year. Injuries, and an odd fascination with Trung Canidate, limited his chances.

Weaknesses: Depth. If anything happens to Portis, it would take two guys to replace what he does. Unless Betts improves as a blocker -- his concentration, in meetings and games, was an issue in the past. That will change. Or else. Chad Morton flashed in some games last year, but it's clear he can't handle too many touches because of injury. He is exciting to watch in the open field, however. Also, it would be nice to have one big back, even with the presence of an H-back.

Who's in trouble: Rock Cartwright and Sultan McCullough. We know Cartwright has shed some weight and trimmed up, hoping the lighter weight adds a little quickness. He did a nice job at times last year and we'd hate to see him get cut. But the H-back serves in essence as a fullback when needed, limiting the number of players kept at running back. Cartwright isn't much of a receiving threat, either. He has a chance, but he'll have to earn it. We can't imagine McCullough having much of a shot. Not unless he improves dramatically in other areas, such as blocking, etc. He also didn't win over his teammates with his approach; some of that stemmed from them being upset that he was kept over Kenny Watson.

Why we're concerned: Because we heard too many negative rumblings (about off-the-field choices, etc)surrounding Portis just before and after the trade. In truth, he doesn't sound much like a Gibbs guy. Some labeled him a bad teammate, stemming from his days at the University of Miami. But there he was in a fight to win a starting job; he's not here. That could make a difference.

Why we're not concerned: Because Portis is a supreme talent and he's just a kid, albeit one with lots of cash -- an always risky combination. Perhaps he'll grow out of the behavior that fueled the other rumors. Others have. So we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Gary Williams once told us he wouldn't recruit an a--hole unless he was 7-foot. Well, Portis, who we stress has been good since his arrival --the new contract helped considerably -- is the equivalent of a talented 7-footer. He might not be a Gibbs guy off the field, but on it he certainly gives his all. Barring a royal screwup off the field, that's how he should be judged.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories