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Walters: A Frontline Back-Up

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Old 08-24-2006, 09:54 PM   #1
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Walters: A Frontline Back-Up

A Frontline Back-Up
Late Tuesday night, in what must have become a matter of habit for the Redskins front office, a three team trade was agreed upon which sent former Atlanta reserve T.J. Duckett to Washington, disgruntled Broncos wideout Ashley Lelie to the Falcons, and an arrangement of Redskins draft picks to Denver. In a trade that seems to truly benefit all three participants, Atlanta secured a much needed third receiver to which, much like his other receivers, Michael Vick will not be able to get the ball, and the Redskins gained a solid insurance policy should the partially dislocated left shoulder of starter Clinton Portis not fully heal, or become problematic throughout the season.

The acquisition of Duckett, a 6' 0" 250 lbs. sledgehammer in running back's clothing, does many things for a Redskins offense that has stumbled out of the preseason starting gate. Primarily it assures that Al Saunders' revamped Redskin offense will have a reliable option to ease the strain that Clinton Portis' injury has had and will have on the running game. It also provides Washington with an undeniable force in short yardage situations, something that the Redskins have lacked in varying degrees for some time. This, of course, is to say nothing of the relief that Duckett will provide a healthy Portis, who has logged a staggering amount of carries throughout his four-year career.

After the excitement that comes with the addition of such a potentially vital piece of the Redskins offensive machine, questions begin to arise as to the fallout that Duckett's arrival will have on the psyche of the existing running backs on the roster, more specifically Ladell Betts. With fellow reserve Rock Cartwright making his mark primarily on special teams, Betts is the one most likely to feel the pinch. Betts, who recently had been working on a contract extension with the club, had been publicly praised by new coordinator Al Saunders as having even more talent than the former Chiefs offensive boss had known Betts to possess.

But such glowing praise, as stated in this space recently and proven by the actions of the front office on Tuesday, do not necessarily reflect the comfort level the staff has with Betts when he is forced to be the primary option. Betts had been billed as the tough, between the tackles type of runner that perfectly compliments the slashing style that Portis typically displays, now finds himself in competition with a back who truly fits the description that had been unique to him on the Redskins roster. This is not to imply that Betts is not a talented back capable of making his own individual contributions, because he certainly is that. But what it does demonstrate is that, to a degree, the Redskins brass is not comfortable relying on the often unreliable Betts to shoulder the load during Clinton Portis' convalescence.

Other less notable ramifications include Canadian product Jesse Lumsden, who had looked impressive in camp before becoming sidetracked by minor injuries. Lumsden, like the recently released Kerry Carter before him, faced an uphill challenge to make the roster before the addition of Duckett, and those chances that had been slim are fading further.

The addition of Duckett may also spell the end for one of the two backs the Redskins drafted in 2005, Nehemiah Broughton and Manuel White, Jr. Both Broughton and White have been primarily used as fullbacks in the new Al Saunders offense, so it was very likely that one may have met The Turk before the trade. However both backs possess the size necessary to become and effective short yardage back, a need that is now filled with Duckett on board.

Optimistically, the addition of Duckett to what appeared to be an already well-stocked cupboard of backfield talent assures the Redskins that, at the very least, a capable back will be carrying the ball along with, or in place of, Portis. However, the glass half empty crowd will point to the fact that Duckett is entering a situation that is uncomfortably similar to the one from which he just departed in Atlanta. Given a healthy Portis, Duckett will be relegated to spelling a Pro Bowl-caliber back, much like he did with the Falcons behind Warrick Dunn. From Duckett's perspective, he has a greater chance of winning in D.C. and has a head coach who values a player with his skill set more than most. He also can rest in the knowledge that, unfortunately for Washington, he will be a free agent after the 2006 season and can seek his employment elsewhere should he so choose.

In fact, it is Duckett's potential freedom that is the only real negative that could arise for the Redskins out of the whole situation. The fact that Washington surrendered even more draft picks, the composition of which will depend upon the final 2006 standings, is only a minor concern. The Redskins have been a much more free agency-minded team since the return of Joe Gibbs before the 2004 season, and have traditionally not been one of the more successful teams come draft time no matter who was calling the shots. At most, the Redskins will have to swap first round selections with Denver and surrender their third round selection in 2007 to the Broncos, meaning that Washington landed the former first rounder for what will most likely be a late third round choice and a few slots in round one.

Perhaps there is also something to be said for the negative effect the trade will have on Ladell Betts and his contract talks with the team, rumored to have been ongoing at the time of the swap. It would be hard for Betts to take Duckett's acquisition as a vote of confidence from the coaching staff. However it is not so difficult to foresee Betts as the 2007 version of new Minnesota Viking Chester Taylor or former Jet and current Raider Lamont Jordan before him, that is a backup in whom some team in willing to invest both starter dollars and the hopes that they can carry the load full-time.

Will Betts now find himself on the trading block as the season nears? There are a few teams, the Eagles (with whom a trade is highly unlikely) and Steelers come to mind, whose running back situation is far from settled and to whom a player like Betts may become an attractive option. Most likely, barring a mind blowing offer from these two or any other team, the Redskins did not add such significant depth to turn around and thin out the very position that they just strengthened, so a trade is unlikely.

All the Redskins fans who had such high hopes before the Clinton Portis injury can now find some measure of relief in the knowledge that there is a solid backup to shoulder the burden his injury has placed on the offense. While he's no Clinton Portis, the idea of the 250 lbs. Duckett running with a head of steam behind 275 lbs. behemoth Mike Sellars should be enough to ease some concerns as to the state of the Washington running game in Portis' absence.

Check back next week for your weekly Redskins football fix. Hail to the Redskins!




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Old 08-25-2006, 01:16 PM   #2
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Re: Walters: A Frontline Back-Up

Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyJoeGibbs View Post
Where does it mention that bum Walters?
Walters is the guy who wrote the article.

By the way Matty, does Walters write for anybody or is he just a freelance guy doing his thing?
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Old 08-25-2006, 01:19 PM   #3
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Re: Walters: A Frontline Back-Up

Quote:
Originally Posted by MightyJoeGibbs View Post
Oh as long as they cut that idiot Walters.
This article is clearly about RBs. Why are you still talking about a backup offensive lineman??

Your posts confuse me.
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Old 08-25-2006, 01:33 PM   #4
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Re: Walters: A Frontline Back-Up

Quote:
Originally Posted by Schneed10 View Post
Walters is the guy who wrote the article.

By the way Matty, does Walters write for anybody or is he just a freelance guy doing his thing?
He does write for someone, I forget who though
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