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Clinton Portis, receiver extraordinaire

In the 2007 season, Clinton Portis quietly had the most productive receiving season of his career. I say quietly because it was not an earth shattering receiving year -- his 389 yards receiving was only nominally higher than his previous high of 364 -- and did not result in any touchdowns. However, the rub going into the '08 season was that Ladell Betts (at least relative) advantage over Portis was that he was more apt at receiving out of the backfield. Portis is a better runner and is about the best blocking running back in the National Football League.

From the looks of it, CP is a more complete back now. While his numbers were good, not great, they were efficient. I was browsing STATS NFL leaderboard and stumbled across a few interesting numbers:

  1. Clinton Portis was the NFL's sixth leading rusher last year. In general, individual rushing yards are down from years past, where even LT, in a league-leading effort, could not surpass the 1500 yard mark. I attribute the change to an increase in running back by committee systems, though welcome alternate explanations in the comments.
  2. Portis was ninth in the NFL in YACs; interestingly he had more YACs than he had receiving yards.
  3. He was third in the league in percent of passes caught. This should be caveated by noting that many of these passes were short yardage, as he caught them behind the line of scrimmage. Still, what you want out of your running back is to make those kinds of catches and get some YACs afterwards, and Portis did both about as well as anyone else in the league.
It wasn't all good, though. CP, who has usually been good at protecting the football, set a career high with 6 fumbles, five of them lost. (Note: Jason Campbell led the league in lost fumbles, with eight.) I think the sample size on fumbles is small enough where this can be viewed as an anomaly. The good news is that Portis appears a much better receiving threat out of the backfield than he was in years past, making it all that much more difficult for opposing defenses to account for his presence.