October 8, 2010

Is Ryan Torain The Answer At Running Back For The Redskins?

Here's my bi-weekly column for SB Nation DC. Enjoy.
Oct 8, 2010 - With Clinton Portis sidelined for at least the next 4-6 weeks, now would be the perfect time to lose all faith in the Washington Redskins running game. The Redskins are ranked 19th in rushing offense, averaging 98 yards a game on the ground with Portis in the backfield. Without him, how could things improve? Right?
That's essentially what they did last season. Once Portis and backup Ladell Betts went down with injuries, the Redskins abandoned the run. Now that Portis is gone again, how could things turn out any differently? Washington is already unbalanced in terms of their run-pass ratio, as they have thrown the ball 135 times to 92 rushing attempts. That's a 59.5-40.5 ratio in favor of the pass, and in Portis' absence, can Kyle Shanahan maintain any sense of balance when it comes to offensive playcalling?
There's no question the running game is a serious issue for the remainder of the season.
That said, Portis' replacement, Ryan Torain, might quash all concerns with a strong showing against Green Bay this Sunday in his first NFL start since 2008.
Torain is a virtual unknown around the league, and unless you watched him lower the boom on Eagles safety Quintin Mikell en route to a 12-yard touchdown run last week, you probably aren't very intrigued. After all, it's tough to get excited over a former fifth-round draft pick with an injury history and few accolades. However, Torain has impressed in limited action over the past few months and could prove to be the answer at running back for the rest of the year.
Historically, Mike Shanahan has been quite adept when it comes to discovering talent at the running back position. His zone blocking schemes breed success out of the backfield no matter who is carrying the load. Unheralded backs such as Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and Mike Bell have all experienced huge days on the ground with Shanahan at the controls, so why can't Torain?

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