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WT: Back issues at forefront for Redskins


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Back issues at forefront for Redskins

By Mark Zuckerman



The Washington Redskins entered the 2003 season reasonably confident someone in their corps of intriguing-yet-unproven running backs would seize the opportunity and become the franchise's next feature back.

After 15 games with no such emergence, the Redskins appear to have come to the conclusion their tailback of the future is going to have to come from somewhere else.

Washington likely will make running back a top priority this offseason, with club officials and coaches alike convinced they can't enter 2004 with the current backfield intact. And given the relatively slim pickings expected to be available on the free agent and trade markets, the Redskins may have no choice but to spend a high draft pick on a tailback.

They were hoping it wouldn't come to this, not when they entered the season with high hopes for a unit that included promising backs Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts. But as the season draws to a close, it has become clear neither Canidate nor Betts (nor teammates Chad Morton, Rock Cartwright nor Sultan McCullough) can be counted on to succeed next year.

All have been given a shot in some capacity, and all have come up short for a variety of reasons.

Canidate, who leads the club with 142 carries for 600 yards, has shown spurts of explosiveness. But Marshall Faulk's former protege in St. Louis has been wildly inconsistent, has been indecisive when carrying the ball and has proven to be fragile. He missed two games in midseason with a sprained ankle and will end the season having sat out three straight games with a sprained foot.

Betts (77 rushes, 255 yards) has long been regarded by coaches as the club's best long-term tailback prospect. But the second-year runner has been beset by injuries this season (a sprained elbow in training camp, followed by a fractured forearm during the season). Even when healthy, Betts has done little to get excited about, averaging a paltry 3 yards a carry since his 77-yard game in the season opener.

"It's frustrating," he said. "I envisioned, at some point along the way, getting a lot of playing time and getting a lot of carries, basically having a breakout year. It didn't work out that way."

The Redskins haven't totally given up on Betts, but considering how little he's done to date, they don't feel they can go into next season counting on him to lead the way.

Of the other three, only Cartwright (95 carries, 368 yards) has enjoyed even moderate success. A converted fullback, he will make his third straight start at tailback tomorrow against the Eagles. But Cartwright, despite his work ethic and ability to break tackles, is seen as nothing more than a change-of-pace inside runner down the road.

Morton (46 carries, 197 yards) has proven to be best-suited to stick with kickoff and punt returns, with an occasional rush or reception out of the backfield. McCullough (one carry, 9 yards) has been a bust after making the 53-man roster out of training camp as an undrafted rookie.

That leaves Washington gearing up for an offseason shopping spree with a handful of interesting running backs likely to be available.

Cincinnati's Corey Dillon is expected to be trade bait this spring after losing his starting job to Rudi Johnson. A six-time 1,000-yard rusher who has been limited to 491 this year because of injuries and a lack of playing time, Dillon, 29, has visions of a mid-career renaissance (a la Faulk).

San Francisco's Kevan Barlow is already enjoying a breakout season of his own with 984 yards and six touchdowns while splitting the workload with Garrison Hearst. Barlow will be a restricted free agent (the Redskins showed no hesitation to sign such players last year), but the 49ers are likely to offer him the highest tendered contract, requiring a first-round pick as compensation.

Otherwise, the market figures to include veteran tailbacks on the downswing of their careers (Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin are possible cuts) or less-appealing free agent choices like Duce Staley and Troy Hambrick.

Washington's draft prospects appear to be better. Among the top tier of college running backs are Virginia Tech's Kevin Jones, Oregon State's Steven Jackson and Northern Illinois' Michael Turner.

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We might be better off picking a RB in the second round where we could land someone like Cadillac Williams who I believe will be a great RB.

I agree though that we need a coach, may it be Spurrier or someone else, that can commit to running the ball more consistantly. If it works, use it. Running the ball has always been there for us this year, we simply don't always use it.

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here we are, back at the point where we started, trying to find a running back.

we let Davis go and convinced ourselves that we didn't need a franchise or every down back, merely players who were competent and could get by in tandem to supplement the ever promised downfield game.

I guess the hope of fielding an aerial circus has left the confines of Redskins Park and we are now embarking on building an NFL team again :laugh:

Sound fundamentals to the front my lads :D

Run the ball, block the big uglies up front and stop people on defense.

Win games 20-13 and enjoy the occasional highlight reel plays from Ramsey to Coles, etc.......

Hummm........doesn't this sound like a formula we used to see a lot of around here? :laugh: :laugh:

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Originally posted by bulldog

Sound fundamentals to the front my lads :D

Run the ball, block the big uglies up front and stop people on defense.

Win games 20-13 and enjoy the occasional highlight reel plays from Ramsey to Coles, etc.......

Hummm........doesn't this sound like a formula we used to see a lot of around here? :laugh: :laugh:

Keep dreaming Bulldog. Don't you know who's in charge of this circus? Ringmaster Snyder. Winning ugly doesn't sell tickets. Quality blocking TEs and FBs are no fun and don't sell many jerseys. We're just gonna play a little pitch and catch, and draw some plays up in the dirt.

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Originally posted by Skeletor The Invincible

Run the ball, run run run, and then a nice playaction pass.

He sure was a great coach.

Skeletor, I'd take that philosophy anyday. It works. And you're right, Norv's failing wasnt as an offensive playcaller as much as his failure to motivate players and maintain respect/discipline/accountability. A head coach needs to be able to command and oversee all aspects of the team, and Norv just couldn't do that, in the same way that Spurrier can't. How many successful NFL coaches can we say that about? None that I can think of.

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when I was watching Byron Chamberlain trying to block Simeon Rice this year, my thoughts went to where Walter Rasby ended up :)

no we didn't need a blocking tight end, what for?

we were going to be the Rams and challenge the defense all up and down the field with our passing game and top line speed.

well, here we are two years into this thing and I don't see a parallel Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt, Isaac Bruce on this team.

And I don't see a line that blocks well for the pass.

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actually SKELETOR, I was thinking of Gibbs not Turner :)

slightly different trajectory there.

the basic premise remains the same however. you have to have a balanced attack to win.

Elway won Super Bowls when he had 2,000 yard rusher Terrell Davis on hand, not before.

Even Montana had Roger Craig and Wendel Tyler.

The Skins sold themselves a bill of goods believing that they could get something out of Canidate that the Rams couldn't in his years in St. Louis, consistency and durability.

Now we are back to sticking our hand in the barrel to take another shot at it.

One step forward, then two steps back :(

Top draft pick on a running back as the article implies?

What the hell about the defensive line? :)

Oh, I forgot, we are going to sign Kearse, Sapp and Hugh Douglas once he is cut by the Jags :laugh: :laugh:

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Rasby is blocking very successfully for one of the league's best backs: Deuce McAllister.

Every team needs a Rasby, a James Jenkins. These aren't guys that will cost a lot as free agents, and could likely be picked up as undrafted free agents. It just takes a bit of thought and effort on the part of the front office to fill these spots.

I would also love to have a true blocking fullback in the Sam Gash/Lorenzo Neal mold. It would help our running game tremendously, and maybe we could even develop a -*gasp*- power running game to take pressure off of Ramsey.

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bulldog, who would you recommend to the FO that they draft on the Defensive Line?

There are no sack artists out there. There are no great passrushers.

Hell, the best defensive lineman in the draft, Tommie Harris, probably won't even declare.

All I'm saying is that we have to be wary about not REACHING for talent that isn't there. Or not. This is about production. We need production from the defensive line in terms of stopping the run and rushing the passer.

Personally, if Sean Taylor is there, I think we should draft him. Great safety, who I think can really impact our team as far as defense goes. He's a Ray Lewis type player in the secondary.

I don't rule out picking a RB. Trung Canidate is the worst starting RB we've had here in the last 20 years. Period. We need someone else. I just don't know if we need to spend a #1 pick on a friggin RB in a class that is VERY deep in RBs. In fact I know we don't have to.

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Originally posted by ummagumma

Kind of hard to succeed when the coach doesn't give you the ball consistantly. I don't want to bring in a HB unless Spurrier is committed to using him. Otherwise it's a waste and the next coach won't like him and yet another draft pick will be wasted.

Lets look at the handwriting on the wall here at the end of year 2.

In year 1 Spurrier comes in and states that he will win the NFC East, because "after all there are only 3 other teams in the division." He's now 2-9, probably soon to be 2-10 in the division. :laugh:

In year 1 Spurrier says all he needs at QB is noodle-arm Woeful and his slow Gator-aid receivers like Chris Doering to win. We all knew better. Shane Matthews is signed at the last minute and Patrick Ramsey is almost dealt to Chicago. Unlike the Wright Brothers, the Fun n' Gun never gets off the ground. :laugh:

In year 2 Spurrier says he doesn't need a smash-mouth RB like Davis in the NFC East, who "doesn't fit his system." We all knew better. He promises a big-play, down the field offense, but most of the time it functions as a "three-and-out" offense. :laugh: Davis is cut and returns to all-pro form and propels Carolina into the playoffs, whereas the Skins take two steps backwards with a running-back-by committee approach. :doh:

So now at the end of year 2, Spurrier apparently is sending out signals that we do afterall need a big smash-mouth RB. So now the FO is considering blowing a high pick in the draft to reacquire one, even though the defensive line resembles Swiss cheese. We all know better. :doh: But if Spurrier only gives ANY RB 15 carries a game, what good will it ultimately do? :doh:

Not exactly a track record that bodes well for the future. :laugh:

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