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Using Ladell Betts

As you know from following my Twitter feed @Rich_Campbell, this afternoon’s practice was cancelled. Some serious storms blew through Ashburn around 2:30 and washed everything out. The weather had cleared by 3:30, but I’m guessing the fields were in bad shape. This early in camp, there’s no need to risk injury on a sloppy field.

With that, I’ll offer you what Coach Zorn had to say today about Ladell Betts. One of yesterday’s main topics here was Clinton Portis’ workload. Zorn said he never goes into a season saying that Portis has to finish the year with a certain number of carries, but he does enter each game knowing that he’s got to get CP the rock more than seven times (his number, pulled out of thin air, to make a point).

But we all know how Portis’ production fell off down the stretch last season–he averaged no more than 3.2 yards per carry in any of the last five games. Sure, some of that stemmed from a banged up, overmatched offensive line. But Portis runs and blocks extremely hard, and that contact is bound to take a toll at some point.

That’s where Betts comes in, no? I love the factoid that Betts was drafted the same year as Portis (2002), only FIVE picks later. Portis went 51st overall to Denver, and Betts went 56th to the Redskins. Now consider the wear and team both players have accumulated since ’02. Portis has 2052 career carries, while Betts has only 720. That’s a lot of hits. Last year Portis carried 342 times, while Betts rushed a career-low 61.

Betts proved in 2006 that he can be a 1,000 yard rusher. He’ll turn 30 next month, and the adage about running backs starting to decline the millisecond they hit 30 is well known. But you have to wonder whether that process will be delayed with Betts because he hasn’t taken the punishment over the years. 

Now I know no coach ever goes into a season saying: "Our No. 2 running back is worthless and we don’t plan to use him at all." But Betts can be valuable in spelling Portis, who probably needs his workload limited a bit more than he would like. 

Here’s what Zorn said about Ladell:

“Last season we had a few little injuries in the backfield with Clinton [Portis] fighting through his pains. Ladell came in a got injured and that really hurt us. I think what I’m seeing with Ladell, he’s much more fit and much more focused because he knows there’s a good chance for him to play this year. He doesn’t want and we don’t want to lose a step. It’s hard to replace Clinton Portis and guy like that, but a guy coming in like Ladell, he’s going to be an important piece of our puzzle when we have to substitute backs and use guys. Maybe he plays more on third downs. I don’t have that formula quite down yet. Part of it will be how much Clinton can go and how ready Ladell is going to be and I think he’s ready.”