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WPost Email: 'Running Game Yet to Get on Track'

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Old 09-23-2004, 03:49 PM   #1
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WPost Email: 'Running Game Yet to Get on Track'

Running back Clinton Portis is known for having sure hands when carrying the ball but fumbled twice in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants and was involved in a poor exchange with quarterback Mark Brunell in the opening week victory. [Audio: Portis Discusses Fumbles] While his history of holding on to the ball has kept the coaching staff from becoming overly concerned with the fumbles, it is something it will monitor closely in games and practices.

"Right now it's not a problem," running backs coach Earnest Byner said. "But it's an issue that we need to confront, obviously, and really, we work on it all the time. Guys are focused on it. As a matter of fact, Clinton is one of the best guys in terms of protecting the ball. They're going to happen sometimes. They're going to happen in a game. The thing we can do to try to keep them from happening is to keep being proactive, working on it in practice, work on it in the game and then just go play. You can't be overly consumed by it." [Read More: Portis Plagued by 'Fluke Fumbles']

Washington is still trying to get its running game on track. Portis has broken a few big runs -- most notably a 64-yard touchdown on his first carry as a Redskin -- but has also been stopped frequently at the line of scrimmage for a minimal gain. The steady five-and-six yard runs that Coach Joe Gibbs loves to see have been missing.

Portis is still adjusting to his offensive line, and the line itself has been in flux with right tackle Jon Jansen lost for the season in the exhibition opener, Kenyatta Jones taking his place and then Ray Brown starting in Jones's place Sunday in New York. [Read More: With Brown, Consistency Is the Bottom Line] Portis is an instinctive and explosive runner. There were instances Sunday when the tackle and guard pulled and Portis lowered his head and followed them for a few tough yards, but a bigger hole had opened up in the area those blockers had vacated because the defense had over-pursued, leaving the potential for a hefty gain.

Still, the Redskins have shown the ability to break a big play on a cutback run -- particularly the vaunted counter trey -- and are expected to lean heavily on the ground game Monday night against Dallas. Gibbs had characterized the running game as "inconsistent," which must be improved upon quickly given its overall import to his offense.

-- Jason La Canfora
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