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Position Paper: Running Back

Position Paper: Running Back

The first of an occasional series about what the Redskins might do and what they should do to address personnel issues.

The Redskins were #8 in the NFL in rushing yardage in 2008. Clearly that was the strength of the offense as the passing game ranked #23. And the strength of the running game was Clinton Portis, who carried 342 times for 1,487 yards.

Portis didn't get much help. Ladell Betts carried 61 times for 206 yards. And that is an issue that the Redskins need to address this offseason.

The two NFC playoff teams who had this past weekend off, the Giants and the Panthers, had two running backs share the load. In Carolina, DeAngelo Williams rushed 273 times for 1,515 yards and rookie Jonathan Stewart got 184 carries for 836. In New York, Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward both gained over 1,000 yards with 219 and 182 carries respectively.

Even the NFL's leading rusher, Adrian "All Day" Peterson, got more help than did Portis. Chester Taylor kicked in 101 carries as his backup.

I can find other examples but simple logic tells you that the two-headed approach is the way to go. The fact that Portis clearly wore down as the season wore on makes the proposition that the Redskins need to reduce his workload a no-brainer.

Betts was supposed to provide the relief for Portis but despite the fact that Portis was slowing down and was a game time decision on several occasions due to a variety of ailments, Betts got fewer than four carries per game. Betts did miss three games with an injury of his own, but that's still a pretty light workload.

The Redskins need to move about 50 carries away from Portis and to someone else. If that someone else is Betts, fine. If for whatever reason Jim Zorn doesn't trust Betts to get it done, they either need to expend a late draft pick on a running back or find an inexpensive veteran to fill the role.

Those of you who are thinking that the Redskins should think about moving Portis before his performance falls off the edge of the earth need to think again. Even if it was a good idea viewed in isolation—and it's not—the cap hit that the Redskins would take for releasing or trading him would be monstrous, as in eight figures. It's not even an option.

Rock Cartwright is the third running back and he contributes virtually nothing there. He carried five times last year and 12 the past three seasons combined. He is, however, invaluable on special teams. Rock will be here in '09 but he really doesn't have a spot on the running back depth chart. Perhaps they could find a different roster designation for him and carry another running back who has the potential to get some carries. That was the thought process with Marcus Mason last August but the Redskins decided to release him and keep 10 defensive linemen.

Portis needs to continue to be the bell cow. But something south of 300 carries in 2009 would help him be more productive in December. The team needs to identify a back who can share the load, whether it's Betts or someone not currently on the roster and be determined to give him enough work to make a difference.

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The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

The Final Countdown: Eli Manning goes deep for the Redskins 7th worst play of the year

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and, to present a more complete picture of the season, the 10 worst.

No. 7 worst play of 2016

Giants at Redskins, Week 17

4:02 left in Q4, Giants ball 1st and 10 at their own 31, game tied 10-10

Eli Manning pass deep left to Tavarres King pushed ob at WAS 25 for 44 yards (Will Blackmon).

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: It looked like the Redskins were on the verge of saving their season. They were down 10-0 in the third quarter but they battled back to tie it up in the late going. But after lulling the Redskins defense to sleep with running plays and short passes, Manning launched one deep down the left sideline. King, who had one reception for six yards on the season coming into the game, had a step on cornerback Greg Toler and he hauled in the pass for 44 yards. Four plays later Robbie Gould kicked a 40-yard field goal to give the Giants the lead.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: In a terrible game that led to many more questions than answers for the Redskins, this play was just a huge, huge disappointment. Washington fought back to tie up a game that they had largely been outplayed in, particulrly in the first half. Remember, the Giants had nothing to play for while for the 'Skins, a win would put them in the playoffs. The New York offense was laregly nonexistent in the second half of this game, as it became obvious Eli Manning did not want to get hit. And still, the embattled Redskins defense gave up a long pass play to a dude that had contrbuted basically nothing all season. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

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What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!