On Sunday, Washington Redskins’ running back Clinton Portis passed Earl Campbell for 26th on the NFL career rushing list, while carrying the ball 25 times for 98 yards. It was his highest total since last November, but also his ninth straight game below the century mark.
Portis’ 70 yards-per-game average is his worst since his rookie year, when he went on to finish above 1,500 yards. His yards-per-carry average of 3.90 is his worst result through Week 4 of any of his 8 NFL seasons. If it holds, it will be his third (out of six) Redskin season below 4.0 and his fourth below the NFL average (currently 4.19).
Has Portis lost it? Is his lack of production bringing down the offense around him? He certainly doesn’t think so, saying he thinks “on paper [Washington has] got the most talented team in the NFL,” soon “will do something special” and “from the 20 to the 20, we’re hell on wheels.” Personally, he thinks “it’s only a matter of time before I have a 200-yard game. It’s only a matter of time before I have a 150-yard game. It’s only a matter of time before I get two or three touchdowns… I know it’s coming.”
However, those in the media haven’t exactly agreed, saying the tailback “hasn’t been himself this year,” has put up “meager running stats,” is “off to a slow start” leaving his team “seeking a spark in the running game,” and “may also be starting to show his age.”
Even John Riggins, who Portis will soon pass as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher has said the younger tailback may be on the decline. Riggo noted (in between calling CP at “headache” and a “crybaby”) that “unless he changes the way he views himself and views his contributions to the team, then I think that that could be problematic for the Redskins.”
Portis has responded that Riggins “had a great offensive line” and “think of who else was around, you know? Really not hard to be a great running back when you’ve got all that talent and help around you. I think they just had great teams, you know?” But despite all this research, Portis maintains “I don’t know nothing about this man, for real. I never went and watched John Riggins and studied his film, cared anything about him.”
Maybe he should have. And maybe he should have listened to The Diesel when the latter warned that calling “his offensive line out last year — I didn’t think that was particularly wise. And I don’t think it really goes over very well in the workplace when you start criticizing people you work with and blaming them for your lack of production or because you’re not where you perceive yourself to be in the minds of everybody else.”
Despite all the public love thrown at CP by his coaches, teammates and even the team’s brass at Redskin Park, Washington may not think there’s much left in the tank. Just this season, the Redskins have: given Ladell Betts the third-down back role, activated former practice squad-ers Marcus Mason & Anthony Aldridge, and even worked out former Titans RB and NFL substance abuse policy-violator Chris Henry. This comes just one season after signing former Seahawk Sean Alexander off the street.
Portis received a $9.3 million bonus last March, is a $6.2 million cap charge this year, and is due to make $7.2 million in 2010, $8.3 million in 2011, and $8.5 million in 20212 and 2013. Given the rate at which his production is going, management may want to reconsider.