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Get On Your Horse

Back on September 14th, I blogged about the Redskins need to put the ball into the hands of their most lethal offensive weapon, Clinton Portis. Needless to say, the Redskins don’t listen to me, but Coach Zorn obviously agreed with the sentiment, as since that time, Portis has been busy, and he has been effective. In fact, he’s been more effective than any other running back in the league.

Portis leads the NFL in rushing yards with 818; he is on pace to put up almost 1900 yards for the season. Add to that, his seven rushing touchdowns are second only to LenDale White of the Tennessee Titans (8).  Portis also leads the league in rushing attempts with 163. So its easy to see that Zorn has definitely put the ball into the hands of his horse – and has been rewarded for doing so, the Redskins are 5-2.

It can be a fine line for a coaching staff when it comes to getting your star running back the ball. The Redskins play the winless Detroit Lions this weekend and there’s a lot of conventional wisdom that wants CP to get a ‘bit of a rest.’ I say, just give him the ball more early on. While you don’t want to wear out your back before the end of the season, you have to take a closer look at Portis’ numbers to see just how important it is to get Portis the ball 25 times in a game. 

If you look at Portis’ rushing average, all it tells you is that Portis is averaging an impressive 5.0 yards per carry. It becomes really interesting when you break down exactly when those yards come; Portis only averages 3.6 yards per carry over his first 10 attempts – he’s just getting warmed up. On attempts 11 through 20, that average climbs to 6.1 yards per carry, and then climbs again to an amazing 7.3 yards for attempts 21 through 25. So he is averaging more than TWICE the yards per carry on his later attempts than in his first 10.

Obviously there are a multitude of factors that go into the above statistics, not the least of which is the offensive line bossing the opposition’s defensive line in the fourth quarter. That comes directly from pounding the ball at the opposing team early on. Those 3.6 yards per carry are just as important as the 7.3 yards per carry, because you can’t have one without the other. Make that defense work their asses off in the first half, so that they can’t put in the same kind of effort in the fourth quarter.

There’s an intangible at play here though – Clinton Portis is a gamer. Clinton Portis is a football player. Clinton Portis is a warrior. 

Over the course of a game, CP just gets more into the game. His focus seems to sharpen as the game wears on, and the more you give him the ball, the more opportunities he gets to express his extreme competitiveness. In a league full of fierce competitors, he stands with few equals. 

Six out of the Redskins’ seven games have gone down to the wire – six of those six have been on the back of Clinton Portis. He is the most complete running back in the NFL. Keep giving him 25 carries a game to prove it, and the Washington Redskins have the potential to ride their horse into the playoffs.

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