Portis' Redskins career had its highs and lows

Portis' Redskins career had its highs and lows

Clinton Portis started off in Washington in a blaze of glory. His first carry as a Redskin came in the 2004 season opener at FedEx Field and it went for 64 yards and a touchdown. Portis Redskins career and the Joe Gibbs II era was off to a glorious start.His last carry in the NFL was not bathed in much glory. It came in Week 10 of the 2010 season at LP Field in Nashville. Portis had missed the previous five games trying to recover from a groin injury. With 1:29 left in the first half, he took a handoff from Donovan McNabb and gained three yards off of left guard. He got up but he immediately headed to the sidelines. It was apparent that the groin was bothering him again. The Redskins put him on injured reserve soon after that and he was released in March of 2011.According to reports Portistried out for a few NFL teams but he never did sign with one of them. Today heannounced is retirement at a news conference at Redskins Park. Portis wasclearly emotional during parts of a talk that lasted nearly 30 minutes.I think I had a great careeron and off the field, he said. I was truly blessed to play for two greatorganizations.Portis played his first twoyears in the NFL under Mike Shanahan in Denver. When Joe Gibbs, who Portis saidwas one of his favorite people, came to Washington in 2004 one of his firstmoves was to engineer a controversial trade that sent perennial Pro Bowlcornerback Champ Bailey and a second-round pick to the Broncos in exchange forPortis. The knock on Portis was that heskipped practice too much and didnt work hard enough in the offseason. Andmaybe he could have been better. Perhaps some of those 1300-yard seasons couldhave been 1500-yard seasons and the years where he gained 1500 or more couldhave been truly special.The criticism didnt botherhim. The negativity made me a man, said Portis.It is hard to see Portisgetting much more out of his body than he did. He had 2,230 rushing attempts inhis career, including four seasons with 325 or more carries in a five-yearspan. And you cant forget the wearand tear he created while dishing out punishment to blitzing linebackers. Hemay not have been the best overall running back in the business but none werebetter when it came to pass protection. Rarely would a game go by when hewouldnt stonewall someone trying to come in and do harm to his quarterback. Most games, it was more than one.He blocked and played physicalfootball like no one else, said Redskins owner Daniel SnyderHis career numbers were good but what Redskins fans will remember most about him, besides the costumes hewore to press conferences during the 2005 season, are the two season-ending stretches where Portis put the teams on his back and carried them into theplayoffs.The first was in 2005. TheRedskins had lost to the Chargers to fall to 5-6. Everyone knew they had to win out to get into the playoffs. They did it and Portis led the way, gaining over100 yards in five straight games as the Redskins won five straight games. They needed a similar miracle in 2007 and this time the mountain seemed even taller. Sean Taylor, one of Portis best friends on the team, was murdered in his home in Miami in late November.The day before his funeral, they lost to the Bills to fall to 5-7.Portis was not the statistical leader during the four-game winning streak they pulled off in Taylors honorbut he served as the emotional leader. Against Dallas in the season finale hescored on a 23-yard run and lifted up his jersey to reveal a T-shirt honoringTaylor.I cant think of a team that won a Super Bowl that had a better bond than us, on those 2005 and 2007 teamsthat I played on, said Portis.

Redskins' Norman tops Pro Football Focus' list of offseason acquisitions


Redskins' Norman tops Pro Football Focus' list of offseason acquisitions

Redskins cornerback Josh Norman has been named No. 1 on ProFootballFocus.com’s list of 20 “offseason additions likely to make an immediate impact.”

Norman was PFF’s top-rated corner based on QB rating allowed (54.0 percent) last season.

Overall, the football analytics website graded the 28-year-old as the game’s sixth best corner in 2015 (tied with Arizona's Patrick Peterson).


Norman, of course, signed a five-year, $75 million contract in Washington on April 22, just days after Carolina rescinded its franchise tag tender to the All-Pro corner. Now, he’s the Redskins’ best player on defense and, arguably, their best player on either side of the ball. 

“[Norman] should be a dramatic upgrade in Washington,” PFF’s John Breitenbach concluded in an article posted Wednesday.

Breitenbach added: "New Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry improved the defense in 2015, but had an obvious hole in the secondary opposite Bashaud Breeland. Chris Culliver struggled last season, allowing a QB rating of 134.8 (surrendering four touchdowns on 35 targets)."

That hole, obviously, will be filled by Norman, who is set to start opposite Breeland, the 2014 fourth rounder who's coming off a breakout sophomore season.

Culliver, meantime, was released on May 2.

Norman’s new teammates, meanwhile, couldn’t be any more pumped about Norman's arrival.

"I was excited, just adding another piece to the defense," four-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams said recently. "It’s extremely tough to come [up with] good corners. So to get one of his caliber is extremely exciting."

Defensive end Ricky Jean-Francois added: "He’s going to help us a lot. I feel like a lot of quarterbacks won’t really try to throw at him. And if they do, they are going to have to gameplan him. Just to have a solid corner and [other] veterans in your secondary, that should make Joe B’s job a lot easier. He can call blitzes. He can man-up. I know a lot of people say we’re good [in] zone, but with a corner like that, you can man-up and send that front after somebody."

During the NFL’s interminable offseason, there are lists ranking anything and everything. If this one turns out to be correct, though, the Redskins' defense could make a significant leap in 2016.


Seven months after switch, Redskins vet DeAngelo Hall is settling in at safety


Seven months after switch, Redskins vet DeAngelo Hall is settling in at safety

Although he’s already played half a season at safety, DeAngelo Hall anticipates taking a significant step forward in the coming months.


He’ll benefit from an entire offseason of first team reps at his new position, rather than attempting to master a new job on the fly, as he did late last season. 

"I’m still learning some different things, but I’m having a blast," Hall said. "I enjoyed being able to get a little taste of it last year, and [now] starting from scratch this year."

Hall, 32, made the switch to safety last November in part because, well, he had to.

He had toyed with the idea of making the transition for a couple of years, but upon returning from toe injury in Week 10, the longtime corner found himself in need of a place to play with Chris Culliver and Bashaud Breeland entrenched as the starters.

And so, at long last, Hall officially began following in the footsteps of Charles Woodson, Rod Woodson and Ronde Barber—all of whom made a successful, late-career pivot from corner to safety.

Indeed, after playing his first 11 seasons exclusively at corner, Hall played the final seven games of 2015, including the Wild Card loss to the Packers, at safety. Although the transition went as smoothly as possible, changing positions in the middle of the season, much less during a pressure packed playoff push, is never ideal.   

Now, though, Hall’s finally getting the opportunity to really sink his teeth into his new role, which, he recently revealed, will feature a key tweak.

"I’m pretty comfortable," Hall said. "It’s a little different; last year, I played a little more strong than free, and this year I’ll play a little more free than strong. But in our defense you have to be able to do both. You have to be able to interchange. [The offense] can motion one guy, and the free safety becomes the strong safety and the strong safety becomes the free safety. You got to know them both. So, to say I’m free safety really doesn’t mean much because, like I said, one motion and I’m the strong safety in the defense."

During the only OTA practice open to the media last week, Hall, who is entering his ninth season in Washington, lined up as one first string safety. Newcomer David Bruton Jr., meantime, was the other. And while Bruton could face some competition, it's probably safe to pencil in Hall as a Week 1 starter.

"It’s been fun,” Hall said. "That’s probably the best word I can use."


Redskins' Kirk Cousins consults current and former NFL starters for advice


Redskins' Kirk Cousins consults current and former NFL starters for advice

A year ago, Kirk Cousins spent the spring and summer months competing for a job on the Redskins’ roster.

This offseason, he’s working to refine his routine as the Redskins' starting quarterback.

And that work, he revealed recently, has included reaching out to current and former NFL quarterbacks and asking them about their approach to the seven months between games.

"Basically, I’m trying to figure that out still,” Cousins said. “I feel like I’m still in [that] process."

"I’ve called a few of the starting quarterbacks around the league, a few of the retired guys who had great careers," he added, "and just asked them what worked for them in the offseason."

Cousins didn’t specify which quarterbacks he’s called. But he didn’t need to. The simple fact that he’s consulting them is interesting. And telling, even for a guy known for his meticulous preparation. (Last December, Cousins said he parsed each day into 15-minute increments using a color-coded spreadsheet.)

So what did Cousins ask? A little bit of everything, from football to family.

"What was their rhythm in January, February, March?" Cousins said. "When they went back in April, May, June, what’s their rhythm? What’s their rhythm in the summer? How do they handle family? How do they balance travel and opportunities?"

Seeking information from vets who’ve handled one of the most pressure-packed jobs in sports is a wise move for the 27-year-old Cousins as he navigates his first offseason as the Redskins' most important player. Because in addition to facing increased pressure and scrutiny on the field in the coming months, there no doubt will be more people vying for Cousins’ time, as well.

More media appearances. More marketing opportunities. More, well, everything. Dealing with the increased pressure and blitz on his time will be paramount, and the fact that Cousins has gotten out in front of it all should help.

"I’m still figuring that out, so I don’t know that I have a great answer," he said. "I’m trying to get to a routine that works for me and my wife and our family. Once we start in mid-April and go ‘til mid-June, football’s a huge priority and I’m trying to get as much done here as I can."