NFC East: Ladell Betts

Skins taking it slow in free agency

March, 10, 2010
3/10/10
10:59
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With some NFL teams, inviting an unrestricted free agent for a visit is almost a guarantee that the player will sign a contract. But apparently Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan don't operate that way.

Though the Skins hosted at least three players Tuesday, none of them left with a contract in hand. Washington needs a running back to complement Clinton Portis -- especially since they just released Ladell Betts and Marcus Mason. Perhaps they're waiting to find one in the upcoming draft.

"Fast" Willie Parker was in town Tuesday, but the former Steelers back is still on the street. I'm planning to talk to folks at Redskins Park later today, so I'll keep you posted.

Skins re-sign Rabach, release 10

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
9:08
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So much for Redskins general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan easing their way into free agency. The Skins began a major overhaul of their roster Thursday evening, re-signing Casey Rabach to a three-year contract but releasing 10 other players.

Rabach

Rabach

The other three teams in the NFC East have extended tenders to players but none of them rivaled the Redskins in terms of purging their rosters. Veteran guard Randy Thomas and wide receiver Antwaan Randle El were the most notable releases. It's not surprising the Redskins would release them, but the timing is certainly interesting. Shanahan has talked about improving from within, but now he'll also have to look elsewhere for help.

Rabach agreed to a three-year contract worth $12.3 million, according to ESPN's John Clayton. It's obvious the veteran center placed more emphasis on security than money by not testing the free-agency waters. The Redskins also released former starting cornerback Fred Smoot as well as veteran backup running backs Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, who was a valuable specials teams player. Cartwright was also a vocal leader on the team but apparently that wasn't enough to convince Shanahan.

Basically Clinton Portis is the last running back left standing, although that will change via free agency or the draft. Keep in mind that Shanahan is a great admirer of LaDainian Tomlinson after playing against him for so many years in the AFC West. No matter what you think of the Skins' moves, no one can say they weren't decisive Thursday.

"Obviously, it's a day of change for the Redskins," Allen told reporters at Redskins Park earlier this evening.

Last year at this time, the Redskins were paying huge money to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth in free agency. This time around, the Redskins appear to be more interested in creating vacancies.

Scouts Inc.: Fixing the Skins' run game

March, 4, 2010
3/04/10
12:17
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Whether it is Jason Campbell or a rookie first-round pick behind center for the Redskins, it is instrumental that Washington gets far more from its running game under new coach Mike Shanahan than it did a year ago.

[+] EnlargeRussell Okung
AP Photo/Michael ConroyThe Redskins could upgrade their running game by drafting a stud tackle, such as Russell Okung.
With Shanahan in charge, surely the Redskins will switch to more of a zone blocking scheme that he made so famous while he was in Denver. That means the Redskins’ battered and aged offensive line must get much more athletic. To me, that is priority No. 1 for this new regime. Taking an athletic left tackle -- maybe Russell Okung -- with their first draft pick would be a tremendous first step and building block -- much like Shanahan did in Denver with Ryan Clady, whom I consider the best left tackle in the game today. Shanahan has a tremendous reputation for finding smaller, athletic linemen who fit his system in the middle and late rounds, but left tackle is a little different. A true building block is needed up front along with an abundance of later draft picks who fit the zone blocking mold. The Redskins’ run blocking was among the very worst in the league last season. Major changes are needed.

Shanahan also has a tremendous reputation for finding tough downhill runners who are quick to make a read, stick their foot in the ground and make a sharp cut upfield. Once again, he has found such runners in the middle rounds and generally doesn’t tie up a lot of resources with running backs. That leads us to Clinton Portis.

Personally, I think Portis is done. However, he is very tough, is an exceptional pass-blocker and has an understanding of the Shanahan system, in which he was very successful before being traded to the Redskins. Also, keeping him around this season wouldn’t have a negative impact on the salary cap. Those are the benefits and I could see Portis being useful while Washington brought in a third- or fourth-round running back who might take time to get acclimated. But I still come back to how Portis looked early last season and frankly, I didn’t like it. Even then, he looked like a running back who had taken too many hits and lacked the explosiveness that he once had. Remember, this isn’t a particularly big runner and the toll on his body with his aggressive running style is extreme. He is no longer a difference-maker.

So overall, Portis probably has more value to Washington than to any other team in the league, but Ladell Betts and Quinton Ganther might be equally effective runners at this point. Keeping him makes some sense, but I surely would not be up in arms if the Redskins made him the next once-exceptional aging runner to be cut.

Bradshaw to miss Broncos game

November, 25, 2009
11/25/09
1:50
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The New York Giants have officially ruled out running back Ahmad Bradshaw (left ankle) for Thursday night's game in Denver. He was on crutches Tuesday, so this isn't a surprise. And it could clear the way for Danny Ware to have an increased role in the offense.

In limited action, he's shown a good burst and a willingness to pick up the blitz. I'd be very curious to see what Ware could do against a Broncos defense that allowed Ladell Betts to go off recently. I could see Ware getting 10 to 12 touches in this game, especially since starter Brandon Jacobs has been banged up.

It's a great opportunity for Ware to showcase his ability. How long will be Bradshaw out? There's really no telling. He's fought through an injury to his right ankle. Now he'll be operating on two bum ankles. If Ware seizes this opportunity, we might not see much from Bradshaw down the stretch. Just a thought.

Report: Betts out for the season

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
12:26
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Redskins running back Ladell Betts will miss the rest of the season with torn ligaments in his left knee, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. An MRI exam revealed that Betts tore the anterior cruciate ligament and medial cruciate ligament.

The Redskins also lost starting right guard Chad Rinehart to a broken right leg in Sunday's game against the Cowboys. Veteran running back Rock Cartwright will replace Betts in the starting lineup and he'll be backed up by Quinton Ganther. The Redskins will likely sign another running back this week in order to create a little depth.

Clinton Portis is still recovering from a concussion and he won't play Sunday in Philadelphia. Cartwright doesn't bring as much power as Betts, but he's a better option in the passing game -- as evidenced by his 73 yards receiving in Sunday's loss.

Quarterback Jason Campbell is used to losing weapons, so this latest setback won't faze him. As crazy as this sounds, I think he may have played his best game of the season Sunday in a 7-6 loss to the Cowboys.

He did a really nice job of managing the game and he beat the blitz with quick and decisive throws. I don't think he got much help from Sherm Lewis and Jim Zorn once the Skins moved inside Cowboys territory. And Shaun Suisham picked a bad time to miss two field goals. He connected on his first 13 attempts of the season, but the miss from 39 yards at the end of the first half was a killer.

The Beast Knee-jerk Report

November, 23, 2009
11/23/09
11:52
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It was a good day for Beast teams other than the Redskins, and they actually did some nice things against the Cowboys. Let's take a quick look at what folks are saying in the aftermath of Sunday's games:

Cowboys
Eagles
Giants
Redskins

Cowboys' offense wakes up just in time

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
8:50
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Tony RomoAP Photo/Tony GutierrezTony Romo played through back pain after a blow suffered while making a first-quarter tackle.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After drawing criticism all week for his play calling in a loss to the Green Bay Packers, Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett produced a much more balanced approach against the Washington Redskins. And the results weren't a whole lot better.

This week, though, the defense bailed out the Cowboys long enough for the offense to finally show up in the fourth quarter in a 7-6 victory. On the surface, a 6-3 Cowboys team should've dominated a 3-6 team that is simply playing for pride at this point. But for the better part of four quarters, the Redskins were the best team on the field.

Garrett, a man who'd run the ball 41 percent of the time through the first nine games, answered his critics by calling 22 running plays against only 12 passes in the first half. Marion Barber and Felix Jones combined for 107 yards in the first half, but the Cowboys came up empty on the scoreboard. It didn't help that Barber fumbled on the Redskins' 16-yard line in the first quarter.

Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall scooped up the fumble, causing quarterback Tony Romo to become a defender. That's not a good scenario for the Cowboys. Romo made the tackle but he suffered a back injury in the process. He winced in pain with each warm-up throw on the sideline, but never missed a snap.

Romo spent the rest of the afternoon subjecting his receivers to devastating blows from Redskins safety LaRon Landry. The quarterback was losing the ball high, something that normally takes place with Rangers pitchers a couple of blocks down the street. Romo was 15-of-27 for 158 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The Redskins were playing without All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and they quickly lost starting running back Ladell Betts to a knee injury. This wasn't supposed to be a fair fight, but it went to the wire because the Cowboys' offense that helped lead the team to a four-game winning streak has gone in the tank. The Cowboys can probably get away with just showing up against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday, but they won't beat teams such as the New Orleans Saints and San Diego Chargers playing like this on offense.

"This is also one of those kind of games you can look at and know you have to get better because if we play that type of football week in and week out, we won't be able to accomplish the goals we need or want," Romo said. "Saying that, it's mostly us on the offensive side of the ball. The defense played outstanding today, they gave us a chance to win the game."

When you hold a team to six points, I guess "outstanding" is an appropriate superlative, but the Redskins helped out the Cowboys with missed opportunities and baffling coaching moves. Linebackers London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh both dropped easy interceptions in the first half that would've given the Redskins the ball inside Cowboys territory. And late in the first half, the Skins' lame-duck coach, Jim Zorn, went conservative for no apparent reason. The Redskins had a third-and-1 at the Cowboys' 21 with 15 seconds left in the first half. Instead of taking a shot at the end zone, Zorn sent the field-goal unit onto the field. Shaun Suisham hooked a 39-yard attempt and the Redskins only had a 3-0 lead at halftime.

It's hard to say that a quarterback played an excellent game in a 7-6 loss, but that's exactly what happened with Jason Campbell. He beat the Cowboys' blitz by finding his receivers on hot routes and somehow shook off outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware to extend plays. His efforts were undermined by a poor effort from Suisham, and a playcaller and head coach who took their feet off the Cowboys' throats at the worst possible moments.

Clinging to a 6-0 lead midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskins had a third-and-2 at the Cowboys' 30. They had hurt the Cowboys on third down all day with quick deliveries from Campbell, but they decided to send Rock Cartwright up the gut for a 2-yard loss. Perhaps for a moment, playcaller extraordinaire Sherm Lewis forgot the Skins had one of the worst offensive lines in the league.

Suisham was wide right on a 50-yard attempt, and the Cowboys had new life. Romo was 7-of-8 on the ensuing drive. And with 2:50 left in the game, he spun away from rookie-of-the-year candidate Brian Orakpo's sack attempt and fired a 10-yard touchdown pass back across the field to Patrick Crayton.

Cowboys defensive end Stephen Bowen tipped a Campbell pass at the line of scrimmage that was intercepted by Anthony Spencer and the Cowboys escaped. No one in the Cowboys' locker room apologized for the win -- and they shouldn't have to. But at some point this season -- preferably before December -- this offense needs to find an identity. Garrett reintroduced balance to the offense Sunday, but it didn't yield any more points than his pass-happy approach at Lambeau Field.

"We weren't consistent enough," Garrett said after the game. "But at the end of the day, we found a way to win the game."

With a huge assist from the Redskins, of course.

Someone please tell Zorn he's 3-6

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
2:43
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Redskins show up today without defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (ankle) and they promptly lose starting running back Ladell Betts (knee). Oh, and they're leading the game at the half, 3-0. That's the good news.

But after a ridiculously long review process, the officials awarded the Skins the ball at the Cowboys' 21-yard line with a third-and-1 situation. There were 15 seconds left on the clock and no timeouts for the Skins. But instead of taking a shot at the end zone, coach Jim Zorn sent his kicking unit out to attempt a 39-yard field goal. Shaun Suisham missed for the first time this season. That's not the worst part of it, though.

Zorn showed absolutely no confidence in his offensive line or quarterback in deciding to go ahead and try the field goal. And why would the 3-6 Skins be conservative at all? Makes no sense to me, much like the entire first half.

Some injury updates from Cowboys-Skins

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
2:11
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the Redskins, cornerback DeAngelo Hall has returned to the game after suffering a knee contusion. I just watched running back Ladell Betts get carted to the locker room. He has been ruled out for the rest of the game.

The Cowboys just lost center Andre Gurode. He walked off the field under his own power, though. He's been replaced by Cory Procter. Keep your eye on the snap because these two guys have had some issues. The Cowboys are on the Redskins' 39-yard line with a second-and-2. Need to get some points out of this drive.

OK, Gurode just returned to the game. We'll keep you updated. Join me on the NFL Nation Live if you get a chance.

Betts out for the game

November, 22, 2009
11/22/09
1:38
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Redskins running back Ladell Betts is out for the game with a knee injury. It apparently happened on a 2-yard run off right tackle with just over six minutes left in the first quarter. Bradie James made the tackle and Betts' foot seemed to get caught up in the turf.

Obviously, it's serious enough that the Redskins immediately ruled out his return for this game. Betts had a big day against the Broncos last Sunday. He'll be replaced in the lineup by Rock Cartwright. We might also see Quinton Ganther get some carries.

Another huge setback for the Skins.

Saturday Beastlines

November, 21, 2009
11/21/09
4:21
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Let's take a quick look at the top story lines from around the division today:

Cowboys
Eagles
Giants
Redskins

Zorn: Portis 'very doubtful' for Sunday

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
7:17
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Redskins coach Jim Zorn said earlier Wednesday that running back Clinton Portis (concussion) is "very doubtful" for the Cowboys game Sunday.

"But I don't want to count him out," Zorn said.

Zorn said he would like to see Portis practice before considering putting him back in the starting lineup. And the coach continued to say that Portis hasn't lost his starting job to Ladell Betts. But at this point, you have to think that Betts gives the Redskins the best chance against the Cowboys.

Even before his concussion, Portis hasn't looked like himself this season. Betts provided some elusiveness and some power in the win over the Broncos. I think you'll also see Rock Cartwright get involved in the passing game quite a bit.

The Cowboys are still preparing for Portis, but they realize that it's unlikely they'll see him.

Tuesday Beastlines

November, 17, 2009
11/17/09
12:30
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Let's take a quick look at the main story lines from around the division:

Cowboys
Eagles
Giants
Redskins

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

November, 17, 2009
11/17/09
11:30
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Garrett
1. Jason Garrett, Cowboys offensive coordinator: Is it really that difficult to get one of your most explosive players, Felix Jones, some touches? Jones finished with three carries and didn't catch a pass. In an all-out slugfest (for the first half), the Cowboys could've used a running game. Instead, Marion Barber, Tashard Choice and Jones combined for 11 carries. That's unacceptable. It's not as if the Cowboys were lighting up the Packers in the passing game. It was a giant step back for this offense -- and the finger is pointed squarely at the Princeton man.

2. Eagles' red zone efficiency: The Eagles had to settle for field goals during their first three trips inside the Chargers' 10-yard line. At one point, they had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line -- and could not punch it in. They had similar issues against the Cowboys the previous week. The Eagles came back and made a game of it Sunday, but it's hard to win when you're trading field goals for touchdowns.
Austin

3. Miles Austin, Cowboys wide receiver: One of the few downsides to becoming an overnight sensation in this league is that you're going to face more scrutiny. Early this season, a four-catch, 20-yard performance by Austin wouldn't warrant a comment. But Austin has become one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFC East. Now it's news when he doesn't make an impact on a game. Austin also had a key drop against the Packers. He spent about three weeks in the "rising" category, but he's starting to trend the other direction.

Rising
Betts

1. Ladell Betts, Redskins running back: Had 26 carries for 114 yards and a touchdown that pretty much sealed the upset of the Broncos. Betts has been slowed by an ankle injury in recent weeks, but he ran with power and speed against the Broncos. On the touchdown run, he ran through a Brian Dawkins tackle. For one Sunday, Betts gave this offense an identity. And starter Clinton Portis may have been the happiest player on the sideline. You could see him leading the cheers for Betts throughout the game. It would've been easy to fold after those two early Brandon Marshall touchdowns, but the Skins hung in there.
Avant

2. Jason Avant, Eagles wide receiver: Avant took over the game in the second half. He had eight catches for 156 yards and he made one of the best one-handed catches in traffic you'll see in an NFL game. With the emergence of speedsters DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, we haven't heard as much from Avant this season. On Sunday, though, he was the best receiver on the field. A courageous effort by one of the team's best competitors.

3. Jason Campbell, Redskins quarterback: He's kept his dignity intact through all the drama and he did an excellent job of managing his team Sunday.
Campbell

When Campbell gets outside the pocket, he can be a dangerous quarterback. He made a couple of throws to Antwaan Randle El on the run that most quarterbacks in the league can't make. On one of them, he beat the blitz by firing a pass over the middle from his back foot. When Campbell stops trying to be perfect and lets his instincts take over, he can be a highly effective player. Special shout-outs to defensive end Andre Carter and linebacker Brian Orakpo for combining for three sacks and 13 tackles. They both had outstanding games. And it was also a gutty effort by Albert Haynesworth to try to drag himself back on the field despite an ankle injury.

The Beast Kneejerk Report

November, 16, 2009
11/16/09
9:00
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The Cowboys and Eagles spit the bit Sunday, but the Redskins pulled off an improbable upset. Let's take a quick look around the division to see what folks are saying:

Cowboys
Eagles
Redskins

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