Clinton Portis's ability to churn out yardage will be a key in Sunday night's game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Perhaps just as important will be his ability in pass protection.
The Eagles' defense, led by defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, is notorious for creative blitz packages. It'll be partly the running back's responsibility to recognize the blitz and block the incoming defender, be it a defensive back, linebacker or lineman.
Early this season, Portis has drawn praise for his pass-blocking ability.
"Even when he's not getting the ball, he's doing his job," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "If it's in pass protection, he's sticking his nose in there and many times going against defensive ends who weigh 100 pounds more than he does. He's making some big plays [in those situations]. We can always count on him to block for us."
Said Portis: "Whatever you can do to help the team. You have to play without the ball. In this offense, you always have to be aware what could happen to spring some. Allowing Mark time to find the receiver has been helping us out."
Apart from blocking, Portis is looking to get back on track after a disappointing performance last week against the New York Giants.
Portis was limited to just nine yards on four carries in the game.
On Sunday night, Portis will be playing against a Philadelphia defense that is ranked 21st in the NFL, yielding an average of 123.7 yards per game.
Two weeks ago, the Eagles' defense limited San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson to just 17 yards on seven carries. Then, last week, the Eagles allowed two Denver running backs--Tatum Bell and Mike Anderson--to both rush for 100-plus yards.
Portis said the ebb and flow of the games dictated how often the Chargers and Broncos used the rushing attack.
"[The Eagles] did a good job of keeping LaDainian out of rhythm," Portis said. "They never let San Diego get focused on handing him the ball. Once it's late in the game, you're out of rhythm and playing catch-up, and that's what happens.
"The same thing happened to me against the Giants. I had four carries. I wouldn't say the Giants stopped me, but they took us out of our game plan. They did a good job of making us one dimensional."
Portis said the Redskins need to stay balanced in attacking the Eagles' defense.
"We have to play our game, keep our focus, mix in the run and the pass, and open up things downfield," Portis said. "Eventually, they're going to have to take something away. Hopefully, we'll be in the right call when they do and we'll come up with a touchdown."