Portis Needs to Step Up

After 11 games, it's become clear: Clinton Portis was a product of Denver's system. Unlike what we were told before he got here. Unlike what most experts predicted.

But it's become clear that Portis is not the elite back we thought he would be. At least not yet. Maybe he'll get there, but it's evident that he can't carry a team. Nor has he made the Redskins better. Not one bit. And Denver hasn't suffered by his absence.

Just look at the stats: Last season, under a pass-happy coach and with Trung Canidate, the Redskins ran for 1,653 yards. This season, with Portis and a run-oriented coach, the Redskins are on pace to run for 1,653 yards.

The same damn number. All this for Champ Bailey, a second-round pick and $17 million in bonuses. That's an awful lot for a guy who needs more help than we realized. When the Redskins get a passing attack, Portis will be an excellent back. They could then spread the field more, opening up more lanes. When that happens, he could put up big numbers.

But great backs don't need that kind of help. In 2001, Stephen Davis rushed for a club record 1,453 yards with Tony Banks at quarterback. Tony Banks! (In fairness to Portis, Davis' line was much better).

Portis does some nice things on the field. He's very tough, he makes nice cutbacks and does block hard against the blitz. But he's not a grind-it-out back. As tough as he is, he doesn't break tackles at the line. He needs to get to the so-called second level before his effectiveness is felt.

This isn't to demean Portis, but it is to point out that he's not who I thought he would be. And that makes him very much like many other Redskins who have come here in recent years.

. . . The Redskins say end Phillip Daniels has a chance to play this week against the Giants. They're encouraged by his progress, but want to see how he holds up during practice this week. Daniels worked with the scout team last Friday and has missed seven games this season because of injuries.

. . . But there's still no timetable for linebacker LaVar Arrington's return. Arrington isn't even trying to guess anymore.

. . . Kicker John Hall came through Sunday's game fine. Right tackle Jim Molinaro had an MRI, but no word on the results yet.

. . . Randy Thomas is optimistic about his return, but the Redskins aren't holding their breath for it to happen this week.

. . . Receiver Laveranues Coles has a hip bruise, but is expected to play Sunday.


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