Crowded Backfield

Washington Redskins v Kansas City ChiefsIn an offseason where the Redskins let go of long time backs such as Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, one would assume that the Skins would be looking to perhaps get younger and faster at that position.  The Skins looked poised to either be drafting or signing one in free agency. The Redskins courted Willie Parker, and even purchased a one way ticket for him to come to Washington. However, last Friday, the Washington Redskins announced that they have acquired running back Larry Johnson. My initial thoughts on Johnson visiting the Redskins was a move that would facilitate the Parker deal into perhaps a signing. I never thought the Redskins intended to to sign Johnson, mainly due to personal issues along with high mileage. Yesterday, the Redskins began off-season workouts, and the chatter has begun: does Larry Johnson have enough in the tank to be the starter? Most would disagree, but some may be willing to endorse this one time dangerous tailback. Among those in his corner, is Dick Vermeil, his head coach in Kansas City.

“[Johnson] will take over the running back position,” Vermeil told Rick Maese of the Washington Post. “That’s what I think. He’ll push that guy [Clinton Portis] right out of a job.”

Kansas City Chiefs v Washington Redskins

Those are strong sentiments, and clearly Vermeil’s opinion. Valid or not, at this point it still seems unlikely that he unseats Clinton Portis. I am leaning towards Portis being better off for this system that Johnson, but I would not be quick to say that either would be successful next season without each other.

Portis is a natural cut back runner with downfield vision, at least that’s the back we traded for in 2004.  Larry Johnson is a downhill, bruising runner. In the zone blocking system, I do not see Johnson turning the corner very often, yet I don’t see Portis returning to his prime-of-career running style.  If anything, I would not count on either being the main-guy all the time.  Also, behind a poor offensive line, no one will be running anywhere.

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Tags: Clinton Portis Dick Vermeil Ladell Betts Larry Johnson Rock Cartwright

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