After signing backup Ladell Betts to an affordable 5-year, $11 million dollar deal in December, the Redskins will likely give the returning Clinton Portis breathers more often in 2007. After all, Coach Gibbs has generally been a year behind implementing the league's latest trends. They're likely to be one of the most improved teams in the weak NFC on the surface, and it will be in no small part to a healthy Portis and strong depth behind him. Former Jets RB Derrick Blaylock acquitted himself well enough whilst under Al Saunders in Kansas City, and fullback Mike Sellers is an all-around solid fullback. Depth? Washington? Don't worry, it's not habit-forming.
The only team I can reasonably convince myself we're more worthy than the rank are the 49ers. I don't want to futilely argue against LT, I think the Saints have a pair of great RBs, same case with Jacksonville. I think we could still finish ahead of both those teams, but you have to argue against two backs as opposed to one.
The 49ers are essentially a one trick pony. Frank Gore is a great running back, and he represents their ranking fully. I am not at all sold on Maurice Hicks and Michael Robinson, especially compared to Ladell Betts. Barnwell mentions their fullback, Moran Norris, but we've got a pretty good one as well.
So it comes down to Portis vs. Gore in a death match. I don't even think equal footing is required as Betts is convincingly better than anything they have in depth, but I'll argue towards equality anyways. Portis had a down 2006, no doubt, but he was also injured. In his last full season, he had a higher DPAR than Gore and an equal DVOA. Their ranking is clearly placing a heavier emphasis on recent production, which is fine. But given that the Redskins will be utilizing a zone blocking scheme in 2007 that I have enormous confidence in, I absolutely think Portis can (and will!) out produce Gore. At a minimum, the Redskins RBs will outperform Gore and company. Doesn't hurt that I think Betts is a better receiving RB than Gore, and so did FO, last year.
Reader(s), am I off base? Is there anyone else you'd move us ahead of?