Overview: While the emphasis of Joe Gibbs' overhaul
of the Redskins' 30th-ranked offense has been on getting big plays
out of the passing offense, the team will be looking for more consistency out of
the running game as well. Clinton Portis gained 1,315 yards on the ground, but
they tended to come in spurts and he scored just five touchdowns. The design
will be for the passing game to loosen up defenses and give Portis the room he
needs to break off the big runs that were his signature his first two years in
the league. There also will be more of an emphasis of outside running plays,
which play to Portis' strength.
Depth Chart: Portis is the starter in the one-back
offense. Fourth-year back Ladell Betts' will have a role, probably as the
third-down specialist, although if Gibbs decides to go with the "hot back"
substitution pattern he utilized extensively in the latter part of his first
run in Washington, he could see more action. Broughton is the only one on the
roster listed as a fullback, and they hope he can become the power back they
lacked last season.
Man to Man:
Ladell Betts (5-10, 222, Iowa, 3 NFL seasons): The
team's second-round draft pick in 2002 is developing a label of being a jack of
all trades and the master of none. He was the team's third down back for much
of the season, but he caught just 15 passes and six of those came in one game.
Betts was given a shot in short-yardage situations but he could consistently
move the pile. Returning kickoffs after Chad Morton went down for the season
with a knee injury, Betts averaged a respectable 23 yards per, with a long of
70. It seems as if he should bag being an all-around back, at least for the
time being, and hone in on improving one of those skills. Gibbs is known for
figuring out how to best take advantage of a player's strengths, perhaps he'll
figure out how to best utilize Betts.
Nehemiah Broughton (5-11, 250, The Citadel, rookie):
There is one player on the roster listed as a fullback and it's Broughton. It's
unlikely that he'll get a role toting the rock on third and one to start the
season, but should he make the roster and nobody else is effective in the role,
Broughton may well get a shot. Until then, he'll be a special team wedge buster
Jonathan Combs (5-9, 230, Texas College, rookie):
That's Texas College that's Combs' alma mater, not the Longhorns of the Big 12.
The Steers of the Red River Conference were a club football team prior to 2004.
It doesn't look like much of a resume for the NFL and Combs is the longest of
long shots to make this team.
Rock Cartwright (5-7, 223, Kansas State, 3 NFL
seasons): His name and his size have made him a fan favorite since he was
drafted in the seventh round in 2002. It appears that Gibbs is a member of the
fan club as well; rarely does a Gibbs press conference pass without him
singling out Cartwright for his hard work and willingness to do anything to
help the team. No doubt, he will get pushed hard for a roster spot, but only a
fool would bet against him making the team again.
Dahrran Diedrick (6-0, 225, Nebraska, 2 NFL seasons):
A midseason addition to the practice squad last year, Diedrick spent most of
his rookie 2003 season bouncing on and off of Green Bay's practice squad. He
had a solid career at Nebraska, gaining 2,745 career yards and he may be a late
NFL bloomer. Still, he's unlikely to have much of an impact beyond some
fourth-quarter carries during the early preseason games.
Brock Forsey (5-11, 208, Boise State, 2 NFL seasons):
He had a 100-yard rushing game as a rookie with the Bears in 2003 and hasn't
done much since. He'll be battling it out with Diedrick for those preseason
garbage time carries to try to make an impression should the Redskins or
another NFL team need an injury replacement at some point during the season.
Clinton Portis (5-11, 205, Miami, 3 NFL seasons): A blockbuster trade with Denver brought Portis to the Redskins and after he went for 64 yards and a touchdown on his first carry for Washington, the sky seemed to be the limit. The rest of the season wasn't quite so pretty, although it's hard to refer to a 1,300-yard season as a disappointment. Still, his second-longest gain of the season was about a third of that first carry, he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry and he scored just three more touchdowns on the ground all year. That's not the sort of production the team invested $50.5 million in when they tore up Portis' rookie contract and inked him to a new deal. As stated above, the hope is that an improved passing attack will open up some wide open spaces for Portis to blow through.