Portis and the defense can help them get there
The Washington Redskins have had a great season but unfortunately, they might not end up anywhere. The Redskins are sitting on a 6-6 record in the familiar position near the bottom of the division. To have any reasonable chance to win the wild card and a spot in the playoffs, Washington must win its remaining games. Fortunately, the last four games are winnable if they continue to build on their encouraging performance last week against the St. Louis Rams.
Coach Joe Gibbs has gone back to his style of conservative football whereby the Redskins dominate the time of possession. Only now, the rest of the country finally sees why the trade for Clinton Portis has benefited the Redskins. Sure, Portis is not the same as he was with the Denver Broncos, but he has already joined elite company with his fourth consecutive season with 1,000 rushing yards. Portis, a unique blend of power and speed, is projected to go over 1,400 yards on the season and break the Redskins' team record for rushing yards in a season, currently held by Stephen Davis.
The best thing about Portis this season is his health. After putting on 15 pounds this offseason through strength and endurance drills, Portis claims to have never been in better shape. He wants to prevent what happened last season, when he wore down, carrying the ball 343 times.
While his carries have been high this season, especially in the last two games where he has averaged 28 carries, the Redskins are letting Portis use his strength: speed. The offensive line's solid play has allowed Portis to cut to the outside, where he can beat any defensive back in a foot race.
The Redskins have also made Portis a multidimensional talent. He has shown his hands by making several spectacular grabs and converting them into long gains. But his greatest contribution to the passing game is not through his own receptions; it is through protecting the quarterback.
The running back serves as the last line of protection for those backs that get past the offensive line. Portis has taken brutal hits from the defense just to give Mark Brunell another second to look downfield. Consequently, Portis must be taken off the field for a few plays to regain his breath and body.
When Portis is taking a breather, the backup running backs get started right where the star RB left off. Last week, Rock Cartwright also gained over 100 yards on the ground. Cartwright is a smaller back who uses his strength to gain him yards. Cartwright stands just 5' 7" but hits the line with 215 pounds of power, which is useful in third-and-short situations.
While the Redskins use Cartwright for the short, difficult yards, Cartwright's speed must not be underestimated. In the open field, he has displayed spurts of breakaway speed to get past the defenders. In the last two games he has averaged over 13 yards a carry and has had a run of over 50 yards.
For the Redskins to get to the playoffs, the Redskins must win every remaining game. The defense under Gregg Williams has been as tough as advertised but has had problems at the end of games. Last week the defensive unit seemed to recover from playing too conservatively in the final minutes. The defense must remain fresh and aggressive for the Redskins' offense to command time of position.
Gibbs does not need to look far to see other teams that use the same system. The Redskins have already faced five teams that pound the ball on the ground and back it up with a solid defense. The Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers and New York Giants all have a stud running back to carry the load of the offense, and all except the Chiefs have a stingy defense.
If the Redskins hand the ball to a healthy Portis 25 times a game and vary it with ten carries for Cartwright, Brunell and the passing offense should improve. The Brunell-to-Santana Moss connection will regain the gaudy numbers that the two shared at the beginning of the season. Moreover, the Redskins will win football games and might even make the playoffs for the first time in oh so long.
Adith Sekaran. Adith Sekaran is finally a senior at Blair. Adith is a man who is a big time sports fan and can spend any day to its' entirety watching sports or ESPN. Football season is his favorite, which he spends cheering on his ‘Skins to no … More »