Positional Analysis: Running Backs

The Redskins spent 2004 seeing what they had--and what they didn't have--in Clinton Portis. Now they will put that knowledge to work.

Strengths: Clinton Portis has game-breaking ability, with excellent vision and cutback moves. He's a good blocker on third downs and is tough. Ladell Betts offers a good power alternative, particularly in short-yardage situations. Had he been able to stay healthy his first couple years, the Redskins probably would not have Portis.

Weaknesses: Portis wasn't a good fit for Washington's scheme last year. He was too impatient on the counter treys for much of the season -- don't blame him, it's not how he should have been used. And Portis, for all his toughness, does not break tackles at the line of scrimmage. He's too small for that role.

Reason for hope: If the Redskins spread the field, as Portis says they will do, then it will create better running lanes for him. And that's what he needs to run wild. Also, with the return of Jon Jansen and the addition of Casey Rabach, the improved line will help Portis.

Please stop saying: that Portis had a great year last year. Mostly, it's Joe Gibbs saying this, but it's hard to agree with him. He keeps comparing it to Riggins' 1983 season when he rushed for 1,347 yards, 32 more than Portis did this past season. Problem is, Riggo scored 24 touchdowns to Portis' five. And Riggo got many tough yards grinding out the clock at the end of games. Portis may have been impressive because he was asked to fill a different role, but even he doesn't think he had a great year. This year? That might be the case.

Overall: Portis can be one of the NFL's top backs and Betts is a solid backup. If other factors of the offense are clicking, then Portis will run wild. If not, then he's still capable of a good season.


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