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Key For Torain? Staying Healthy

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With the release of Clinton Portis this offseason, the Redskins' youth movement at running back appears to be underway.

Young, promising backs Ryan Torain and Keiland Williams are two options to take over for Portis next season.

Of course, it cannot be ruled out that the Redskins will seek to upgrade the position in free agency or the NFL Draft.

For now, Torain is expected to get the first crack at the starting job, according to head coach Mike Shanahan.

On "Redskins Nation" on Comcast SportsNet this week, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the key for Torain is to stay injury-free for a full 16-game season.

Only then will coaches know what type of back they have in Torain.

"I think Ryan can be very good," Shanahan said. "He's a very good natural runner. His problem has always been staying healthy. This was his first year he didn't have a major injury, but again he could not put together a string of more than three games because of [a hamstring injury].

"That'll be the deciding factor in whether he's a solid back or a very good back."

In his first season in Washington, Torain started 8-of-10 games, missing four due to the sore hamstring.

He led the Redskins with 742 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 164 carries. He produced runs of 54, 27, 25 and 23 yards last season.

Shanahan called Torain a powerful back and downhill runner who is "wired to run guys over."

Sometimes his running style -- hard but a "little reckless, Shanahan said -- has led to injuries, though.

"I think that's why you have to help him out with other guys," Shanahan said.

One helper last year was Williams, who really impressed Shanahan as an undrafted rookie out of LSU.

Williams earned a roster spot coming out of preseason and served most of the season as a third-down back.

Shanahan said his value as a blocker on passing downs was "crucial."

"He got in a role where he really helped us out on third downs," Shanahan said. "By the end of the year he was the best in terms of helping us in protections, especially after Clinton went down. We needed Keiland and he did a great job in protections."

Williams started three of 15 games and posted 261 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries. He also caught 39 passes -- fourth-best on the team -- for 309 yards and two TDs.

"He was very good with the ball in his hands," Shanahan said. "When it came to running, he got much better throughout the year Keiland's a guy who always takes the right hole and finds the right hole. He's very consistent. He can really build off that next season."

In addition to Torain and Williams, the Redskins also have young backs James Davis, Andre Brown, Chad Simpson and Shawnbrey McNeal on the roster.

Shanahan credited Portis with helping Torain and Williams last season and set the tone as a hard-nosed physical back.

"He's the best blocking back I've ever been around," Shanahan said. "When you have a guy who has the notoriety that Clinton has and guys come in and see Clinton put his face in people and not flinch. They see the mentality that he plays with when the ball is not in his hands, it holds everyone else accountable.

"When your number one guy is playing like that, it's tough for the new guys to not play like that, too."

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