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Position Paper: Running Back

Position Paper: Running Back

The first of an occasional series about what the Redskins might do and what they should do to address personnel issues.

The Redskins were #8 in the NFL in rushing yardage in 2008. Clearly that was the strength of the offense as the passing game ranked #23. And the strength of the running game was Clinton Portis, who carried 342 times for 1,487 yards.

Portis didn't get much help. Ladell Betts carried 61 times for 206 yards. And that is an issue that the Redskins need to address this offseason.

The two NFC playoff teams who had this past weekend off, the Giants and the Panthers, had two running backs share the load. In Carolina, DeAngelo Williams rushed 273 times for 1,515 yards and rookie Jonathan Stewart got 184 carries for 836. In New York, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both gained over 1,000 yards with 219 and 182 carries respectively.

Even the NFL's leading rusher, Adrian "All Day" Peterson, got more help than did Portis. Chester Taylor kicked in 101 carries as his backup.

I can find other examples but simple logic tells you that the two-headed approach is the way to go. The fact that Portis clearly wore down as the season wore on makes the proposition that the Redskins need to reduce his workload a no-brainer.

Betts was supposed to provide the relief for Portis but despite the fact that Portis was slowing down and was a game time decision on several occasions due to a variety of ailments, Betts got fewer than four carries per game. Betts did miss three games with an injury of his own, but that's still a pretty light workload.

The Redskins need to move about 50 carries away from Portis and to someone else. If that someone else is Betts, fine. If for whatever reason Jim Zorn doesn't trust Betts to get it done, they either need to expend a late draft pick on a running back or find an inexpensive veteran to fill the role.

Those of you who are thinking that the Redskins should think about moving Portis before his performance falls off the edge of the earth need to think again. Even if it was a good idea viewed in isolation—and it's not—the cap hit that the Redskins would take for releasing or trading him would be monstrous, as in eight figures. It's not even an option.

Rock Cartwright is the third running back and he contributes virtually nothing there. He carried five times last year and 12 the past three seasons combined. He is, however, invaluable on special teams. Rock will be here in '09 but he really doesn't have a spot on the running back depth chart. Perhaps they could find a different roster designation for him and carry another running back who has the potential to get some carries. That was the thought process with Marcus Mason last August but the Redskins decided to release him and keep 10 defensive linemen.

Portis needs to continue to be the bell cow. But something south of 300 carries in 2009 would help him be more productive in December. The team needs to identify a back who can share the load, whether it's Betts or someone not currently on the roster and be determined to give him enough work to make a difference.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

There's still time to vote on this one:

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core offensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. The offense is up today, the defense later this week.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory. If you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.   

Offense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Brandon Scherff (29), Morgan Moses (30)
Changes from last prediction: Moses added, removed Trent Williams (33), Jordan Reed (31)

Scherff and Moses both are two young players who should get better with more experience. The right side of the line will be in good hands assuming the Redskins will be able to re-sign Scherff, who will be a free agent following the 2019 season.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT CAN THE REDSKINS LEARN FROM THE PLAYOFFS?

Williams will be 33 in 2021. He can play at a very high level at that age but I think he will be just below the perennial Pro Bowl status he enjoys now. Although I think that the Redskins can still get some good play out of Reed in the next couple of years, it’s hard to imagine him staying productive into his 30’s. He is under contract through 2021 but it’s hard to see him playing in Washington past 2020.

Solid starters: Jamison Crowder (28), Josh Doctson (27), Chris Thompson (30), Williams
Changes: Doctson, Thompson, Williams added, Kirk Cousins (33), Terrelle Pryor (32), Moses removed.

I’m probably higher on Doctson than most. I don’t see him attaining All-Pro status or catching 100 passes in a season but his physical talent is so good that he will be a solid, productive receiver for the next several years. The Redskins will need to find a third receiver but they will have two good ones in Crowder and Doctson.

Third-down back isn’t technically a starting position but Thompson should still be contributing as much to the offense as many starters.

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I think that Cousins will be a solid starter somewhere in 2021 but it is not looking like it will be in Washington. Pryor obviously did not work out and he is very likely to be playing elsewhere next year.

Potential starters: Spencer Long (30), Rob Kelley (28), Samaje Perine (25), Chase Roullier (28)
Changes: Added Roullier, moved Doctson up

Long could be a fixture on the O-line in 2021 or he could be signed by a different team in March. I don’t think that Kelley or Perine will be workhorse backs but either or both could be a part of a tandem. Roullier could move up to the “solid starters” category if he can repeat what he did in a small sample size (7 starts) in 2017.

There are other players who could end up on these lists a year from now. But we haven’t seen enough of 2017 draft picks TE Jeremy Sprinkle or WR Robert Davis to offer an intelligent assessment of where their careers are headed. It’s the same with undrafted linemen Tyler Catalina and Kyle Kalis. They might not make the team in 2018 or they could be competing for starting jobs in 2019.

There also are reserves like Ryan Grant (30) and Ty Nsekhe (35) who still could be on the roster but who would only be spot starters.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.