Redskins' Running Situation Confusing
Clinton Portis
Clinton Portis

Posted Sep 2, 2006


The Redskins' trade for T.J. Duckett could just be an insurance policy, but it certainly created a lot of questions in their offensive backfield as they begin preparations to open the season against the Vikings.

Clinton Portis set the Redskins' single-season rushing record last year. Ladell Betts has earned raves from new associate head coach Al Saunders. So why would Washington trade for Atlanta running back T.J. Duckett?

Perhaps Portis' partially dislocated left shoulder might be worse than the Redskins have revealed. However, Portis is already participating in some walk-through drills and was durable enough in his first four seasons to have missed just four games while handling the ball 1,409 times. And the opener against Minnesota is still nine days away.

Maybe the Redskins don't think that Betts, who missed four games in 2005 and seven in 2003 with injuries and was scratched from the Aug. 13 preseason opener at Cincinnati with an ailing hamstring, can stay healthy.

Or perhaps Saunders was trying to raise Betts' trade value. However, with the New York Jets having just acquired Kevan Barlow, few teams are shopping for a starting quality back, especially one whose contract expires after this season, as do those of Betts and Duckett.

More likely is that with a 65-year-old coach, a quarterback who turns 36 next month and a notoriously impatient owner, the Redskins are going for all the proverbial marbles this season.

Late Redskins coach George Allen was famous for proclaiming "The Future Is Now." However, fellow Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs also subscribes to that go-for-it now philosophy. Draft choices and Washington's price to acquire Duckett have never meant much to Gibbs. The Redskins traded their top pick in nine of Gibbs' 14 drafts. In the three drafts since his return in 2004, Washington has chosen just six players in the first four rounds.

The addition of Duckett is further proof that Gibbs didn't see the team that reported to training camp on July 30 as the polished serious Super Bowl contender that so many believed. From Aug. 14-22, the Redskins acquired six players - cornerbacks Mike Rumph and Julian Battle, safety Antuan Edwards, offensive tackle Spencer Folau, linebacker Jeff Posey and Duckett - with NFL starting experience. Complete teams don't add six veterans, four of whom were on the street and a fifth who could well have been cut by lowly San Francisco - to the mix in mid-August.

The Redskins had bigger needs than another running back, needs such as: backup offensive tackle, where it could get ugly if either Chris Samuels or Jon Jansen is sidelined; kicker, where John Hall's health and leg strength remain in question; and punter, where Derrick Frost is unreliable.

But the acquisition of Duckett hearkens back to 1991 when the Redskins started reliable veteran runner Earnest Byner (1,048 yards on 274 carries), used the younger Ricky Ervins (4.7 yards per carry) as a change of pace and would bring in bruising former Falcon Gerald Riggs (11 touchdowns on 78 carries) in short yardage and at the goal line. That trio helped produce the Redskins' last Super Bowl champion. Does Gibbs envision a repeat with Portis, Betts and Duckett?



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