Three and Out-Will Portis Become Pass Target?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 07.13.06--Training camp starts for the Washington in less than three weeks, and the season opener against the Vikings is a little less than two months away. Here are a few topics to look at during the calm before the storm.

Another receiver?

One facet of the offense that we're likely to see change this year is the number of passes thrown to running backs. Under Al Saunders' coaching last year, the Chiefs' Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes combined to catch 51 very productive passes for 540 yards. One of Holmes catches, as we all remember, was on a screen pass that went for 60 yards and the winning touchdown for Kansas City in their Week 5 victory over Washington.

When Homes was Saunders' prime back from 2001-2003, he caught 62, 70, and 74 passes so 2005 wasn't some kind of fluke in regards to the number of balls thrown to the tailback.

Clinton Portis caught just 30 passes for a very pedestrian 7.2-yard average per in 2005. It wasn't that Joe Gibbs didn't ever want to throw short; it's just that the screens went to Santana Moss most of the time. Portis' catches came on swing and safety valve passes. He rarely had the luxury of having any blockers out in front of him; when he made significant yardage it generally was because he made someone miss. The thought of Portis with the ball in space with Randy Thomas or Derrick Dockery in front of him has to have entered Saunders' mind frequently in the past few months.

Add to that Saunders' expressed desire to get Ladell Betts more involved in the offense and the fact that Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El have the capability of drawing enough attention from defenders to create some significant space in the underneath portion of the field and passing to Portis and Betts is a very attractive option. We could very well see Portis' carries drop by 25 or 30 but have his overall productivity increase by him catching a couple of dozen more passes for a 12-yard average.

Character counts

In early December of last year after a Wednesday practice, the locker room opened to reporters. The pressure was on the Redskins, as they knew they couldn't afford to lose another game. We had to be careful when we came in because there were flying objects in there. At the far end of the room Chris Cooley was taking batting practice with a broom handle substituting for a Louisville Slugger and a ball of ankle tape serving as the ball. Cooley was making pretty solid contact, spraying the "ball" to all fields although he was unable to generate even warning-track power.

The other players went about their business getting dressed before heading to the meeting rooms although the occasionally had to duck an approaching tape ball. They spoke of the task at hand as something that would take hard work to achieve but nobody was afraid of it. If anyone in that locker room had the slightest doubt that it could be done, nothing was said either in words or in body language that would reveal that doubt.

Contrary to what some skeptics may say, character counts. Football is the ultimate team game and part of that says that a player has to trust that the guy who is lining up next to him is going to fight until the end. It doesn't take very many players not giving a complete effort to drag the whole team down. It also doesn't take many guys who are poison in the locker room to sour the whole mood of the team.

There's no question that the collective character of the Redskins—the sum of parts composed of a bunch of individual characters with character—was what pulled them up from a 5-6 hole two days after Thanksgiving to a Wild Card playoff spot on New Year's Day. OK, talent had a lot to do with it, too, but talent without character might get you to .500. Talent plus character can take you a long, long way. Perhaps all the way to Miami.

Redskins under wraps

It's disappointing that the Redskins have decided to open only eight training camp sessions to the public. That's exactly the same number that fans could watch last year. Most NFL teams, including many who have new coaches and are completely reworking their schemes, will open up at least twice as many camp sessions to the public.

Like all football-related decisions regarding the Redskins, this was Joe Gibbs' call to make. For a coach who talks about how much the fans mean to the team, he sure isn't doing them any favors in this regard. On top of that, he somehow managed to win three Super Bowls while opening up a substantial number of practices while the team camped in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

There are those who will argue that having a lot of fans around while they're trying to practice would be a distraction to the team. Well, if that's the case, if a few thousand friendly fans take away from the players' focus, then they are going to have a hell of a time concentrating when they go into Texas Stadium on September 17, when tens of thousands of hostile Cowboys fans will make things very uncomfortable.


Breaking Burgundy Top Stories

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Another receiver?

One facet of the offense that we're likely to see change this year is the number of passes thrown to running backs. Under Al Saunders' coaching last year, the Chiefs' Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes combined to catch 51 very productive passes for 540 yards. One of Holmes catches, as we all remember, was on a screen pass that went for 60 yards and the winning touchdown for Kansas City in their Week 5 victory over Washington.

When Homes was Saunders' prime back from 2001-2003, he caught 62, 70, and 74 passes so 2005 wasn't some kind of fluke in regards to the number of balls thrown to the tailback.

Clinton Portis caught just 30 passes for a very pedestrian 7.2-yard average per in 2005. It wasn't that Joe Gibbs didn't ever want to throw short; it's just that the screens went to Santana Moss most of the time. Portis' catches came on swing and safety valve passes. He rarely had the luxury of having any blockers out in front of him; when he made significant yardage it generally was because he made someone miss. The thought of Portis with the ball in space with Randy Thomas or Derrick Dockery in front of him has to have entered Saunders' mind frequently in the past few months.

Add to that Saunders' expressed desire to get Ladell Betts more involved in the offense and the fact that Santana Moss, Brandon Lloyd and Antwaan Randle El have the capability of drawing enough attention from defenders to create some significant space in the underneath portion of the field and passing to Portis and Betts is a very attractive option. We could very well see Portis' carries drop by 25 or 30 but have his overall productivity increase by him catching a couple of dozen more passes for a 12-yard average.

Character counts

In early December of last year after a Wednesday practice, the locker room opened to reporters. The pressure was on the Redskins, as they knew they couldn't afford to lose another game. We had to be careful when we came in because there were flying objects in there. At the far end of the room Chris Cooley was taking batting practice with a broom handle substituting for a Louisville Slugger and a ball of ankle tape serving as the ball. Cooley was making pretty solid contact, spraying the \"ball\" to all fields although he was unable to generate even warning-track power.

The other players went about their business getting dressed before heading to the meeting rooms although the occasionally had to duck an approaching tape ball. They spoke of the task at hand as something that would take hard work to achieve but nobody was afraid of it. If anyone in that locker room had the slightest doubt that it could be done, nothing was said either in words or in body language that would reveal that doubt.

Contrary to what some skeptics may say, character counts. Football is the ultimate team game and part of that says that a player has to trust that the guy who is lining up next to him is going to fight until the end. It doesn't take very many players not giving a complete effort to drag the whole team down. It also doesn't take many guys who are poison in the locker room to sour the whole mood of the team.

There's no question that the collective character of the Redskins—the sum of parts composed of a bunch of individual characters with character—was what pulled them up from a 5-6 hole two days after Thanksgiving to a Wild Card playoff spot on New Year's Day. OK, talent had a lot to do with it, too, but talent without character might get you to .500. Talent plus character can take you a long, long way. Perhaps all the way to Miami.

Redskins under wraps

It's disappointing that the Redskins have decided to open only eight training camp sessions to the public. That's exactly the same number that fans could watch last year. Most NFL teams, including many who have new coaches and are completely reworking their schemes, will open up at least twice as many camp sessions to the public.

Like all football-related decisions regarding the Redskins, this was Joe Gibbs' call to make. For a coach who talks about how much the fans mean to the team, he sure isn't doing them any favors in this regard. On top of that, he somehow managed to win three Super Bowls while opening up a substantial number of practices while the team camped in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

There are those who will argue that having a lot of fans around while they're trying to practice would be a distraction to the team. Well, if that's the case, if a few thousand friendly fans take away from the players' focus, then they are going to have a hell of a time concentrating when they go into Texas Stadium on September 17, when tens of thousands of hostile Cowboys fans will make things very uncomfortable.

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