Training Camp Postcard: Redskins
Posted: Wednesday August 1, 2007 3:34PM; Updated: Wednesday August 1, 2007 3:34PM
In Ashburn, Va., at Redskins Park, where the team is ensconced in its own team complex for a fifth consecutive year of training camp.
Talking to Joe Gibbs on Tuesday evening, I learned that even the Redskins Hall of Fame head coach dreads the drudgery of camp at this point in his career. "I told [my wife], Pat, right before I left for the start of camp, 'Okay, I'm going back to the monastery for a while.' " Gibbs said. "That's kind of how it feels.'' Gibbs sounded like he kind of envied my gig this month, getting to actually take a tour of multiple camps and see different players. And he's not the first NFL head coach to express that.
1. Make no mistake, even though the Redskins found out that they had two No. 1-caliber running backs last season with the breakthrough year turned in by Ladell Betts, there's no confusion about Clinton Portis being the starter if he's healthy in 2007. Gibbs and associate head coach/offense Al Saunders were very clear in telling me that Betts is the backup, even if he did run for 1,154 yards in nine starts last season, including a team-record tying five consecutive 100-yard rushing games (all after Thanksgiving).
The playoffs were filled last year with teams that featured a two-back approach to their running game, and the Redskins see the value in making sure Betts regularly spells Portis, who endured an injury-shortened season in 2006 (he hurt his shoulder in the preseason and broke a hand in Week 9). But while Washington plans on re-dedicating itself to the power running game that Gibbs loves this season, in order to take some of the load off young quarterback Jason Campbell, no one within the organization is expecting the Redskins to wind up with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
The scenario Washington would like to see is Portis finishing in the 1,500-yard range, with Betts totaling between 600-700 yards. The Redskins awarded Betts a five-year, $11 million contract extension in December, and that's a sizable deal for a No. 2 back. Washington just hopes it's an insurance policy it doesn't need like it did last year. But stay tuned, because Portis is currently sidelined with tendinitis in his right knee, the same injury that kept him out of a mid-June minicamp.
2. One of things that Washington loves about Campbell is that he allows them to put the long ball back into the play-calling repertoire for the first time since before Mark Brunell arrived in 2004. The Redskins will take their shots down the field this season, hopefully after sucking the defense in close in an effort to shut down their running game. That's something Brunell's relatively weak arm wouldn't allow, even though he and Santana Moss had some long-distance connections in 2005. I'd be surprised if Campbell doesn't consistently try to stretch the field and find Moss and Antwaan Randle El a step behind the defense, because the offense desperately needs more big-play production than it got last year.