The number of true featured running backs in the NFL is shrinking like George Costanza after a dip in the pool. And now we could be losing another.
Clinton Portis, who has been an absolute workhorse during his time with the Broncos and Redskins, could be giving away carries this year. The Washington Post is reporting that Ladell Betts could become the third-down back in coach Jim Zorn‘s offense this season.
- “There’s going to be flexibility in that, and part of it will be how much Clinton can really go,” Zorn said. “Part of it will be is how ready — and I don’t have any problem with it — how ready is Ladell going to be. I think he’s ready. He’s pushing hard in this training camp already.”
Portis was the top-scoring running back in fantasy football during the first half of last season. But a combination of excessive carries, injuries and a worn-down offensive line hurt his numbers down the stretch.
Now Zorn and offensive coordinator Sherman Smith are looking for a formula that will help keep Portis fresh throughout the course of the season. A large part of that formula include susing Betts in a more prominent fashion.
Betts is almost exactly two years older than Portis, but he has only 720 career carries — 1,332 less than Portis. He has also proven in the past that he can handle a bigger role in the offense, gaining 1,154 yards with a 4.7-yard average when Portis missed significant time in 2006.
While Portis will still see a greater percentage of the carries this season, don’t be surprised if Betts leads all Redskin runners in receptions. And based on the multitude of injuiries that Portis endured down the stretch in 2008, maybe fantasy leaguers shouldn’t see it as such a bad thing that Zorn wants to protect him.
One thing is for sure — based on Portis’ career workload and health woes last season, owners who draft him should also target Betts late as insurance.
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