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Let's go ahead and keep Ladell Betts

Betts' 155 yards on 28 carries performance against the Falcons was one of the few things that went right this Sunday. He had an impressive nine first downs and was responsible for over 45% of our total yards. This is the kind of performance that justifies a starting position and there's little doubt that Ladell could do just that on a number of teams.

Therein lies a major problem. Keeping Ladell Betts will become more difficult with every eyebrow raising game such as the one last Sunday. No doubt his agent is shopping around the league right now, trying to sell Betts as a legitimate starter. Football Outsiders helps in making that case: he's the best runner this week according to their DPAR (Defense-adjusted Points Above Replacement) ranking. His 8.1 total rating is .5 above 2nd place Reuben Droughns. More impressive is his 7.6 Rushing DPAR which is a full 2.0 points higher than 2nd place.

But that outstanding game has also renewed our interest in signing him. From this article at the Official Site:

On Monday, head coach Joe Gibbs said that the team hopes to re-sign Betts, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next offseason.

Asked about Betts' status, Gibbs said: "Hopefully what we're going to be able to do is get him signed. That's what we're trying to do."

And from Betts:
Since taking over as the Redskins' primary backup, Betts has said he is excited to get an opportunity to showcase his skills. But he has avoided talk of his pending free agency status.

"All of that will take care of itself," Betts said on Monday at Redskins Park. "I'm not focused on that."

That's good; I'd rather he focus on having another 150+ yard rushing game, hopefully in a win.

I think we need Ladell Betts. I don't know the extent of Clinton Portis' injuries, but Betts has a significant amount of value even with a healthy Portis. First and foremost Betts is a great spell back as he can come in when Portis is tired and/or slightly injured and punish an unrested defensive line. He also has great hands and can catch well out of the backfield, making him a good option on longer 3rd downs. Al Saunders has heaped praise on Betts for this role in particular, and seems to favor Ladell over Portis overall.

Another advantage is that Ladell Betts, in a supporting capacity, increases the length of Clinton Portis' career and, consequently, his contribution to the Redskins. By limiting the amount of 35+ carry games that Portis has, we increase his durability on any given year. We could extend his tenure as a Redskin significantly. Neither of the RBs is particularly old -- CP is 25 and Betts is 27. Keeping them both in the backfield eliminates the need to worry about the position for years to come.

As a former Fantasy Football addict I used to violently oppose the RBBC (Running Back By Committee) system as unAmerican, if only because it depleted the ranks of legitimate starting Fantasy RBs. As a fan of this team I couldn't be more supportive of RBBC. It maintains a rested backfield against a defense that might not be. It allows more flexibility in play calling as downs can be tailored to the strengths of each individual. It also keeps a defense on their toes as they are forced to account not only for different formations but different personnel packages.

I don't know what any of this means for TJ Duckett besides a predictable exit from Washington, which is unfortunate. I don't blame him for his lack of production since the coaches haven't even made an effort to utilize him to any significant degree. Betts' production in reserve of CP should increasingly draw our attention to the decision to trade for TJ Duckett in the first place; hindsight not withstanding, that trade looks even dumber given what we already had in Betts.