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Roster Review: Running Backs

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Redskins.com breaks down the Redskins' roster position-by-position and identifies potential need areas. Up first: running backs.

The Redskins continue to have two starting-caliber running backs on the roster.

Clinton Portis rebounded from an injury plagued 2006 season last year, rushing for 1,262 yards and 11 touchdowns. He is emerging as one of the great running backs in Redskins history, moving into fourth place on the all-time rushing list last season.

Portis was also effective in the passing attack, grabbing a career-high 47 passes for 389 yards.

As head coach Jim Zorn implements his offense along-side new running backs coach Stump Mitchell, Portis's pass-catching skills and pass-blocking ability will certainly be noticed.

Ladell Betts remains a valuable partner for Portis in the ground game. Betts finished with 335 yards and one touchdown last season backing up Portis.

In 2006, Betts had a career year with 1,154 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He was also a threat in the short- and intermediate passing game, logging 53 catches for 445 yards that year.

More NFL teams employ multiple running backs who share the load--witness the Super Bowl champion New York Giants with Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw.

So, for the Redskins, having two quality backs in Portis and Betts is a real luxury.

Rock Cartwright was listed as third on the running back depth chart, but he was used primarily as a kick returner and special teams standout.

Cartwright logged a 25.8-yard kickoff return average last season, among the league's best. He was also second on the team with 36 special teams tackles.

Even though Cartwright has just seven carries the last two years, his experience and leadership has proven invaluable. He has 647 career rushing yards, including a career-high 411 yards in 2003.

Marcus Mason impressed last preseason as a fresh-faced rookie. A local product who was a feel-good story coming out of training camp, he led the Redskins in preseason rushing with 95 yards on 25 carries.

Mason was later assigned to the practice squad, where he finished out the year.

The Redskins signed second-year veteran Eric Shelton after the season. At 6-1 and 246 pounds, Shelton is a big, bruising back.

A Louisville product, Shelton was originally drafted the Carolina Panthers in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, but he has seen limited action as a pro.


#### Positional Analysis

The Redskins are set with Portis and Betts as the primary running backs. Both have long-term deals in place with the club.

Cartwright is an unrestricted free agent and could test the market this offseason. One of the more popular Redskins, his return is uncertain.

If Cartwright departs, that would give Mason and Shelton an opportunity to serve as the team's third running back.


## Three Running Backs Eligible For Free Agency
As of Feb. 19, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Michael Turner, San Diego Chargers: LaDainian Tomlinson's long-time backup, Turner appears ready to assume the role of franchise running back. He rushed for 316 yards and a 4.5 yards-per-carry average last season.
  • Derrick Ward, New York Giants: A fourth-year player, Ward had a breakout season last year with 602 rushing yards and a lofty 4.8 yards-per-carry average. He is part of a very crowded Giants backfield, though.
  • T.J. Duckett, Detroit Lions: The former Redskins running backs hits the market again. He rushed for 335 yards and 5.2 yards per carry last season.


Three Running Backs Available For the Draft

As of Feb. 19, 2008; names listed are in no particular order

  • Darren McFadden, Arkansas: McFadden is expected to be a franchise back in the pros. At Arkansas, he rushed for 1,000-plus yards as a freshman, sophomore and junior.
  • Jonathan Stewart, Oregon: Stewart emerged last season with 1,722 rushing yards, 11 touchdowns and a 6.2 yards-per-carry average to lead the Ducks.
  • Felix Jones, Arkansas: Jones, McFadden's counterpart at Arkansas, could be a first-round pick as well. He rushed for 1,160 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.
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