X's & O's with: Eddie Mason

The Redskins played to Clinton Portis' strengths, finally. They started the season running old-school plays in a new-school era. Clinton is a one-cut back, that's what's been successful for him and it's what he's comfortable with. If you pay a guy 50 million, play an offense that works for this kid.

On Sunday, Clinton made great cuts against the zone. What the zone-blocking play does make it look like the play is going one way when it's designed to cut back. The way defenses are schemed now, they pursue the ball and Clinton is very good at selling the run that way, then cutting back. He's such a great athlete so he can make that plant and cut back to the left. By that time you're talking about him matchup on ends, a safety or a linebacker and he'll win that battle every time. That's why he seemed to get a lot of nine, 12-yard runs. He was able to beat that one player. And Clinton is a lot stronger than we think, but you still have to get him out in space because he's so shifty. He sets guys up with his cuts.

But he sells it well. Most guys when they're going to cut back have their shoulders high because they have to get that momentum coming back the other way. They don't stay low. Clinton already runs with a low center of gravity so he can run a million miles an hour and the linebacker will say, 'This play is definitely going to that side. I'm out of here.' By the time he realizes he's wrong, Clinton has made his cut.

Clinton can cut full speed and most people in the league can't do that. He can run a million miles an hour and not have to gather his feet. He doesn't have to slow his feet down. That's a tremendous talent and few running backs can do that. Take Trung Canidate last year. He was just as fast as Clinton, but he can't make that cut because his steps are too stiff and too straight-legged. He didn't run with a low center of gravity.

Clinton has deceptive speed. On the field he doesn't look like he's as fast as he is because of his strides. He's very fluid, very smooth and very comfortable. He's also very patient and then -Boom! -- when he hits that gap he's gone. If you don't have an angle on him and you're not in the right position to make a play or tackle this guy, then he has the potential to break it long every play.

On special teams, James Thrash ws the star. If he doesn't make those plays, it's a whole different game. The Redskins won the field position and that was the key.

The key for a flyer, or burner, is an attitude. After that, the main thing for a flyer is to just beat the guys off the first two steps. One, two, jab, stick and go. You can't let them get their hands on you. If they get their hands on you, you're done. Pick one side, never try to split a guy. Some may do it every once in a blue moon but it won't happen 100 percent of the time. So most of time time you pick out the weakest guy and go after him. Dre Bly was going against James on Sunday. Dre had just come off defense so he's not giving 110 percent anyway, so there's a weak link right there. He's winded, already tired and now he must guard someone fresh.

When James got downfield he had a split second to look up and find the ball. It's a guessing game, but when you have a guy like Tom Tupa, who is a great directional punter, now you know if in the huddle they say it's a punt to the left, you know he'll get the ball in there. So the flyer knows he has an opportunity either to down the ball or keep the ball from going into the end zone.

You see some of these guys do an overexaggerated fair catch. When they do that, veterans know automatically what's up. Plus you've already found the ball. And when you get down there, the flyer is trying to down the ball and he knows the guys covering downfield will be in the middle part of hte field. So they're taught to look up and if you know he's signalling for a fair catch, you get behind him. That way if he misses the ball and it bounces, we can stop it from rolling into the end zone. It just goes back to more of a feel and knowing your punter.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories