On the radar: Skins' RB rotation

June, 3, 2010
6/03/10
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A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm anxious to see how Mike Shanahan divides carries among his stable of former star running backs. Shanahan surrounds himself with running backs the way Jon Gruden used to do with quarterbacks. He believes there's strength in numbers and he's left no stone unturned when it comes to backs whose careers peaked in 2006.

Clinton Portis
Bob Donnan/US PresswireThe Redskins have some veteran options backing up Clinton Portis.
As we discussed on the blog this morning, the Redskins have now made an offer to former Eagles star Brian Westbrook. Shanahan has even lobbied Westbrook's younger brother, Byron, who plays cornerback for the Skins. In my mind, Westbrook would have a highly specialized role in the Redskins' offense. Coming off a year in which he had two concussions in a short period of time, there's no way Westbrook can have more than seven or eight carries per game. He'd be used as a third-down back and the Redskins would try to get him matched up one-on-one with linebackers.

If Westbrook signs with the Redskins, either Larry Johnson or Willie Parker would be the odd man out. It would be silly to keep all four players active. It's not like any of them can help you on special teams. Are you going to ask Parker to run down on kickoffs? From the folks I've talked to at Redskins Park, Parker probably would be the first player to go. He has not looked all that explosive in practice sessions, but obviously we have a long way to go.

Given Shanahan's success in Denver, we've come to believe that any back can have success in his zone-blocking scheme. But that wasn't the case his last couple of seasons with the Broncos. Denver had a ton of injuries and the Mike Andersons and Olandis Garys of the world stopped showing up out of nowhere. Just because the Redskins' running backs have recognizable names doesn't mean they'll automatically put up big numbers in Kyle Shanahan's offense.

Johnson's at his best when running downhill. But Washington's offense will require him to be patient and wait for cutback lanes to develop. He's never seemed like a good fit in this offense to me -- even if he still had his '06 legs.

Quarterback Donovan McNabb is convinced that finally having a consistent running game will allow him to have more success. But I don't see anyone in this backfield who would scare an opponent. Is anyone worried that Clinton Portis or Johnson will take it to the house from midfield?

I'm curious to hear what Redskins fans think of this rotation. You guys think there's room for Westbrook?

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