April 2, 2010

With Three Backs in Town, Portis' Future Not So Secure

Washington Redskins RB Clinton Portis certainly didn't receive a free pass when new head coach Mike Shanahan came to town in January.

Shanahan came to the Redskins announcing there would be competition at every position this offseason.

After signing both Willie Parker and Larry Johnson off the free agent market in the last month, Shanahan is certainly making it stiff competition for Portis.

Shanahan had some words in reference to Portis during his introductory press conference back in January that really stuck with me. While he praised Jason Campbell, saying "I just love the way Jason handles himself," he didn't give much of an endorsement to Portis:

"I’ve been around some veterans that have been very successful, and all of the sudden they quit working out, and as a running back you can fall off of a cliff," Shanahan said. "If you make a commitment that you’re going to be the best that you can possibly be, or you’ve got the passion and the work ethic to be as good as you can possibly be, then you’ve got a chance to be something special."

Now Shanahan didn't directly accuse Portis of quitting or not working out and giving his best effort on the field, but let's face it; everyone knows Portis tends to slack off.

Through his words, it's clear that Shanahan wanted to let Portis know that he was going to have none of his loafing.

Portis is coming off a disappointing 2009 season in which the star RB gave a lackluster effort before seeing his season end prematurely with a concussion. Shanahan is obviously aware of this, and naturally is doing everything possible to ensure the 'Skins have a reliable ground game next year.

So he cut Marcus Mason, Ladell Betts and Rock Carwright and brought in competition with Parker and Johnson.

Both new RBs have starting experience.

Parker has won a pair of Super Bowls with Pittsburgh and rushed for 1,000 yards three times in his six year career. He has incredible straightline speed and not all that much wear and tear despite being 29 (just 1253 carries with average of 209 per season).

He is coming off a season where he struggled with turf toe while other injuries have also plagued him from time to time.

At one point, Johnson was an elite back as he rushed for over 1,700 two years in a row from 2005-06. However, he wore down quickly in Kansas City and hasn't rushed for 1,000 yards since 2006.

Johnson is a powerful back who could do a lot of damage around the goal line. He still has a few years left in which he could be a solid starting option, but his best days are behind him.

Neither of these newcomers pops out as an instant starter, but each has the potential to knock Portis down the depth chart or off the team. This competition should be a real concern for Portis as he hasn't done enough in the past year and a half to stake a strong claim to a roster spot.

Portis has managed to alienate many of his teammates with his selfish attitude last season, and he has been a negative locker room presence since the departure of Joe Gibbs. Throw in the decline in his play, and Shanahan has a reason to demand more.

Portis has done a lot for the Redskins since coming over to Washington in a trade in 2004, but in the NFL the question is "what have you done for me lately?"

In answering, Portis wouldn't have a whole heck of a lot to say.

No comments: