We used to be in there, now we’re out here
In their seeming quest to add every 30-something running back to their roster, the Washington Redskins let it be known that they are more than interested in bringing the oft-concussed Brian Westbrook into the fold, where he would join four other runners in a crowded, aged backfield.
The Redskins already have Clinton Portis, and during a busy offseason, they brought in Larry Johnson, Willie Parker and Ryan Torain. Adding Westbrook into the mix would be another curious, yet typical Snyder-ish move. However, this decision seems to be coming from new coach Mike Shanahan, who apparently feels you can’t have enough so-so backs around.
Look, we all know the deal about running backs who reach a certain age. The numbers don’t lie. So you could see why the Skins would want to have some insurance for Portis, who will turn 29 just prior to the start of the season. But I’m not sure the players Washington will make anyone feel comfortable about the position.
Surely, all four players won’t break camp with the Skins. So who has the edge? Let’s break it down…
CLINTON PORTIS (aka The Incumbent): I had the great misfortune to have Portis on my fantasy team last year, and can painfully recall him not being able to score a touchdown from the 1 on multiple occasions.
Portis rushed for a meager 494 yards last season and was plagued by concussions – not exactly the kind of stuff that makes him a lock for the starting job. Portis has also been a headache for the Redskins front office with his contract demands, his Spanky Janky shtick and his seeming dissatisfaction with the organization.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan says Portis is No. 1, but you don’t bring in all these guys unless you have serious reservations about the position. Portis better be motivated and ready to roll once training cam p starts.
LARRY JOHNSON (aka The Chump): Plain and simple, Larry Johnson’s been a punk and a disappointment throughout his NFL career. Now, he’s 30 and faces the very real possibility that this is his last shot in the league. Johnson hasn’t run for more than 1,000 yards since 2006, but has been arrested four times since 2003.
Bringing a guy like this in is a decent football move because he hasn’t had a lot of miles recently (over the past three seasons, Johnson’s carries don’t add up to the 416 times he toted the ball in 2006), but a poor clubhouse/PR one. I don’t see any way this is going to work out well for either side.
WILLIE PARKER (aka Fast Willie): I will always have fond memories of Parker, since he helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls – especially with his breakaway TD run in Super Bowl XL. But at 29, Fast Willie isn’t quite as fast anymore thanks to some nagging injuries and the simple passage of time.
Reports from OTAs suggest that Parker lacks the burst he once had, and being a smaller back, speed is his biggest asset. Not to mention that the Redskins’ offensive line is a mess, and for Parker to truly be effective, he needs to have a strong line able to open holes. Yes, that’s true of all backs, but too many times with the Steelers, Parker simply could not get going and would stumble for a 1-yard gain.
BRIAN WESTBROOK (aka Watch The Head): Now, Westbrook could easily sign with some other team (the Broncos had interested), but I find it hard to believe that he will pass up a chance to reunite with his old QB in Washington.
If healthy, Westbrook would be the kind of versatile weapon the Redskins (or any team) would love to have. The problem with Westbrook, however, is that he can’t stay on the field. Westbrook has never played a full season and is coming off some serious concussion issues. If the Skins are comfortable with him missing time or being a part-time guy, then it’s worth the gamble.
RYAN TORAIN (aka Who?):The RB from Arizona State will likely make the team as the No. 3 back simply because of his youth. But like the other guys, he’s got issues. Drafted in 2008 by the Broncos, he fractured his elbow, missing three months, and then, in his first NFL start, tore his ACL. So, we’re not exactly talking about Mr. Invincible here.
This all should make for a VERY interesting training camp, with these former stars (and one rookie) all fighting for their NFL careers. Right now, they’re all saying the right things about the competition, but don’t be surprised if things start to get ugly when the Turk shows up.
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