Will Ryan Torain restore the Washington Redskins to football glory? Is he the guy to replace Clinton Portis? I'll get back to you on that.
All the Draft focus on the Redskins' quarterback need is misplaced. The true downfall of Washington's 2010 offense was the running game, not the passing game.
Check it out. The '10 Redskins averaged 91.3 yards per game, ranking 30th of 32 NFL teams. They dropped three places from 2009 rankings when the 'Skins averaged 94.4 yards per game. Washington ranked eighth in 2008 averaging 130.9 yards per game and 12 touchdowns on the season.
The Redskins had the eighth-ranked passing offense in 2010, averaging 349 passing years and ended the season with 21 passing touchdowns. The 2008 team ranked 23rd in passing yards per game (189.1) and a sad 14 passing touchdowns in Jim Zorn's West Coast Offense.
The fall-off reflects Clinton Portis' health. Injuries kept Portis from completing a full season in 2009 and '10. He started eight games in '09 and five in '10.
Yet, fan comments on message boards and elsewhere praise Torain as the hope for the future now that the "anchor" of Clinton Portis is gone. I hope so. But, Torain has been nothing but a tease. And what a tease he was.
Torain gained over 100 yards in three games. He had over 20 rusning attempts each of those games. Yet, our own Greg Trippiedi noted Torain's tendency to blow hot and cold in the same game.
He has yet to show the scoring potential that Portis demonstrated from his rookie season. Portis appeared in five games last season. He ran for two touchdowns on 54 rushing attempts. That's one score for every 27 attempts. Torain has four touchdowns on 164 attempts. Torain needed 41 attempts to score compared to Portis' 27.
We have seen this before. Ladell Betts in 2006, running in place of injured Portis, rushed 245 times for four touchdowns. That's one score for every 61 attempts. The Redskins' leading scorer on the ground that year was Portis himself, who had seven touchdowns on 127 rushing attempts in eight games, or one score for every 18 attempts.
It's not knocking Torain to say he has yet to show that he has the durability to be a workhorse back and a nose for the end zone like Portis did. That just tells us what he needs to do.
“He can improve on quite a few things,” said Redskins running backs coach Bobby Turner recently. “Never leaving the huddle unless he knows the down and distance; converting on 3rd and 1′s, the critical downs; scoring; and then obviously, we’re looking for the big plays.”
Scouts Inc.'s Matt Williamson was harsher in an April 1, 2011, story posted on ESPN.com.
"Torain is a very good fit for what Shanahan needs from the position. But he is a runner only. He doesn’t have make-you-miss abilities or the breakaway speed to create big plays. Torain is a grinder and a volume runner who brings little else to the table."
Torain has yet to show that he is the complete package.
One rusher in Washington's backfield shows greater potential as a scorer than Torain, albeit on thin evidence. Unheralded, under-used Keiland Williams is that guy. Turn on the WABAC Machine to the second Philadelphia Eagles game. (Yes, you would rather forget, but stick me)
Williams had a hand in three of the four Redskins touchdowns that night. The first was on a six-yard scoring pass by Donovan McNabb. The next two on scoring runs of four and 32 yards.
That last score came when the Eagles, ahead by 38 points, cared little what the Redskins did on the ground. They focused more on what McNabb might do through the air. Williams finished the game with three scores on 16 rushes and four pass receptions, or one score for every seven times he touched the ball.
Clinton Portis, the way Mike Shanahan used him in Denver in 2002 and '03, remains the gold standard of running back scoring--one touchdown for every 19 attempts.
LaDainian (The Omen) Tomlinson scored once every 19 rushes in his last year in San Diego in Norv Turner's downfield offense when he was more of a third down back. He scored once every 12 rushes in 2006, which was his career year under Marty Schottenheimer.
Torain, Williams, Chad Simpson, Shawnbrey McNeal, whatever late-round draft pick Shanahan picks up this weekend have to meet that standard for Washington to be a contender.
I don't see the Redskins picking up an elite feature back this season. Shanahan will default to the running back-by-committee scheme I so hated when I was a fantasy 'baller. He won't have a choice.
Point after: The lockout and cancelled mini-camps will hurts Torain and Williams more than anyone on the roster. They need to be working with the coaching staff right now.