When Ladell Betts got cut I just assumed that the intention was to go younger in the backfield, at least behind Portis. Instead, we added two more older players. I along with many others figured Larry Johnson in particular was completely washed up, and Willie Parker has probably always been overrated and was pushed out of Pittsburgh for a reason. The jokes are already out there about how the Redskins have a kick-ass backfield for 2004. I am not at all convinced that either of these guys is better than Ladell Betts (at this stage in their careers). Betts is by no means spectacular, but he is certainly reliable and very well-rounded. We knew what we had in Betts, even if it was rather boring. But if we’re going to make speculative acquisitions I don’t see why we couldn’t do it with younger players.
I’m pretty confident that in good health Portis is the best player out of these three – so does that mean Johnson and Parker are competing to be the number two man in the committee? They are both on short term contracts, so there is no guarantee for either one that they will make it through training camp. And given the ages involved, I suppose it’s a decent bet that one of the three will take himself out of the running through injury.
And still in the picture, of course, is Anthony Alridge. Given his lack of playing time Mike Shanahan (who coached him in Denver) is the only one with a well-founded opinion of this guy. But even with a true committee system a maximum of three backs can get meaningful carries, and only the top two will get a pretty good workload. The fact that Alridge was the only survivor of the backfield housecleaning must mean he’s under consideration for real responsibility, which is all the more reason to think that at most two of these veterans are making the final roster in August.
And finally, these signings suggest that neither of the Redskins top two picks (remember, no third rounder) will go to a running back, which coming into the offseason had to be considered a realistic possibility. I assume this means that quarterback and offensive tackle are being prioritized and an overhaul of the running back crew is something that can be put off until other holes are patched. That sounds about right to me.
Some other reactions the running back situation:
The Deadspin post on this Old Running Back Trifecta contains the following outstanding comment from reader Amares_Double_Single:
“These three are going to combine to form some sort of washed-up-headcase-injury-prone-voltron-RB. It will then be stopped for a short gain.”Heh…
Another internet comment is less entertaining but more informative – this one is from drobviousso on Football Outsiders. He is apparently a Steelers fan:
“[Willie Parker is] a bad fit because he doesn't have the vision to run behind a dedicated zone blocking scheme. He ran much, much better behind a FB, and has said many times that he's more comfortable doing so.Hogs Haven:
I've watched every single in game snap he's taken, except for the handful I've listened to on the radio, and it's clear he zeroes in on the hole called, and rarely deviates from it. He's at his best in a traditional power blocking scheme with a FB leading the way, like what Cowher ran. Arien's no FB scheme doesn't work well for him, and I think Shanny's will be worse."
“Larry and Clinton will certainly want their carries and there is not enough snaps to go around. Someone will be sitting a lot and will not be happy about it.”Hog Heaven (this one pre-dates the addition of Willie Parker but the issues he raises have since only been amplified):
“Pending the draft, the Redskins will head into minicamp season with Portis and Johnson in a backfield timeshare, and you'd have to wonder exactly what the point of such a duo is going to be. Johnson is roughly the same age as Ladell Betts, and older than Rock Cartwright. Is he a scheme fit? Not really.Finally, I can't decide whether to be amused or irritated by the snarky tone of ESPN's post on the matter:
I think in Johnson and Portis, the Redskins have two guys who will, if nothing else, run hard. They're both above average pass protectors, for backs. Johnson could offer his services as a third down protector to Portis' first two downs, as the salaries suggest Portis will get first crack. But in all honesty, it's hard to see a situation where both players are back in 2011, despite the fact that they are both under contract through the 2012 season (and Portis through 2013). Which, by extension, implies that at best, one of the two will underachieve their expectations this year and get the boot.”
"Parker will join Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson in the NFL's version of'Golden Girls.'
Not that Parker is that old. He doesn't turn 30 until November and hasn't reached even 1,300 carries in his career. (By contrast, Portis has 2,176.) But hip, leg and toe injuries have sapped Parker's once-legendary quickness, and while he did average 4.0 yards per carry in 2009, he lost his starting job in Pittsburgh to Rashard Mendenhall rather early last season..."