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28Oct

run portis run

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Life for running back Clinton Portis and the Washington Redskins is pretty darn groovy at the midpoint of the 2008 season. For starters, he leads the league in rushing with 944 yards, which is 260 yards more than anyone else in the league. That also puts Portis on pace to finish with 1,888 rushing yards, or roughly 300 more than his previous best season. But even with Clinton putting up monster numbers on a weekly basis, he still doesn’t sound overly concerned with personal accomplishments.

“All the personal stats and personal ideas [about putting up big numbers], wanting to do this and wanting to do that is out for me,” Portis said last week. “I want to win. It does not matter if I have 175 yards or if I have 75 yards, if we come out with a win, I come out with a smile on my face.

“I think we are playing great team ball right now, and that’s what is going to take us down the stretch,” Portis said.

And while that’s great for Portis to say – especially when so many people out there paint him as a “me-first” kind of guy – the truth is the Redskins have needed him to do the heavy lifting through the first half of the season and he’s delivered, which is why the ‘Skins stand 6-2 at the halfway point of the season.

We decided to break down the first half of each of Portis’ five seasons with the Redskins and see what the number crunching showed. Here’s what we found out:

In 2008, Portis has 187 carries for 944 yards (5.0 per carry) and seven touchdowns. Most importantly, the Redskins are 6-2.

In 2007, Portis had 151 carries for 629 yards (4.2 per carry) and six touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 5-3.

In 2006, Portis had 127 carries for 523 yards (4.1 per carry) and seven touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 2-6.

In 2005, Portis had 148 carries for 620 yards (4.2 per carry) and four touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 5-3.

In 2004, Portis had 204 carries for 810 yards (4.0 per carry) and two touchdowns. The ‘Skins went 3-5.

Most importantly, the Redskins are 10-2 when Portis rushes for at least 100 yards during this timeframe. Now that we’ve laid the case for Clinton, please allow us to play devil’s advocate.

Hey Casey Rabach, here’s your chance to tell us Portis is just rushing for all these yards because his offensive line is so awesome. What say you?

“I can’t say that,” he told us last week. “As a whole the offensive line is playing pretty well, but definitely credit goes to Clinton. He’s running hard, he’s making yards after contact and breaking tackles. He’s definitely a huge part of this offense.”

So much for that line of thinking. What do you think of the steam Portis is gaining as a possible NFL most valuable player candidate?

“That would be awesome if he could pull that out,” Rabach said. “That’s what an offensive lineman dreams for – to see a guy you’re playing with excel and earn that honor.”

If he does win the award, what should the offensive line get as a thank-you gift?

“You know, it doesn’t matter,” he said with a laugh. “It’d definitely be appreciated, but …

Have you guys talked with him about it yet?

“Oh, Randy [Thomas] definitely has talks with him here and there,” Rabach said. “He’ll definitely take care of us, that’s for sure.”

Next up, we wanted to ask some of the defensive players what it means to have someone like Portis, capable of sustaining time-consuming drives, on the same team. How great it is to sit on the sidelines all fresh and relaxed while he’s running wild on opposing teams?

“He’s looking good, man,” said rookie safety Chris “The Predator” Horton. “And that offensive line is doing a great job of giving him holes and letting him run. He’s a great back and if that offensive line continues to give him big holes … I could run through them.”

Wait a minute. Did you just say you could put up the numbers that Portis has this year behind that offensive line? Pete Kendall had a carry and we saw how that turned out.

(Laughs). “Not at all,” Horton said. “I’m going to continue to do what I do and try to get better at what I do on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe some day [Horton can worry about offense], but not right now.”

Even though Horton realized he’d put his foot in his mouth and began back pedaling as quickly as possible, it didn’t stop us from having a little fun at his expense.

Hey Marcus Washington, Chris Horton said the offensive line is playing so well that even he could run through those holes. What do you say to that?

(Laughing. A lot). “I don’t think he could run through those holes,” Washington said while still laughing at the thought of Horton playing on offense. “We won’t mess with him right now. He’s playing well too, so we won’t mess with his confidence too much.”

So aside from Horton, pretty much everyone in town sees just how impressive Clinton Portis’ play has been thus far this season. Needless to say, if he continues at this level of play for the remainder of the season, then the Redskins will most likely be involved in some meaningful games come January. That’s news any Redskins fan can be proud of.

27Oct

lions playlist

(photo by Eric Leichter)

1. “Cocky” by Kid Rock

Yes, the Washington Redskins defeated the Detroit Lions 25-17. That doesn’t mean everything is necessarily peachy though.

Before the game even began, one couldn’t help but be concerned. Less than an hour before kickoff, the Redskins announced their inactive list and while running back Ladell Betts and the regularly injured duo of cornerback Shawn Springs and wide out Malcolm Kelly were out, there were a few surprising names also on the list. Safety Chris Horton, tackle Chris Samuels and defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin were all being held out of the game due to various ailments.

Word began to spread that if this were a playoff game all three would most likely be active, so immediately the question was raised – were the ‘Skins taking the Lions too lightly? Did they go into this game almost as if it was a preseason game, resting their starters as if the outcome was never really an issue? Whatever the rationale, Redskins fans couldn’t feel good that just two weeks after losing to the previously winless St. Louis Rams, the ‘Skins seemed to assume a league doormat would just roll over simply because the all-mighty Redskins were in town.

2. “My Name Is” by Eminem

Thank the lord for wide receiver Santana Moss. If not for the continued resurgence of “the other Moss,” the ‘Skins would probably be doing a lot of soul searching the day after another humbling loss to an inferior opponent. As he’s managed to do for much of the 2008 season, Moss simply outmatched whoever drew the assignment of trying to slow him down.

This week, Moss finished with a season-high nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. They went to him early and often in Motown and the Lions could do nothing to stop the speedy wide out. Moss touchdown, a 50-yard bomb in the third quarter, was text-book Santana – catch the ball and make people miss.

(Editor’s note: This officially ends the tribute to Detroit music portion of our playlist).

3. “The Way You Move” by Outkast

Okay, let’s get the negative part out of the way early – running back Clinton Portis and head coach Jim Zorn had what Portis termed a “misunderstanding” during the game. At the end of the first quarter, Portis checked out of the game, reportedly with an equipment issue, and didn’t let Zorn know what was going on. And then, early in the second quarter, with the equipment issue resolved, Portis checked himself back into the game. Well, Zorn again was left out of the loop with which running back was going to be in the game on what play. After the drive the cameras clearly showed Zorn unhappy with how things played out and letting Clinton know it.

Of course, Portis went on to have another stellar day. He had 24 carries for 126 yards in route to his fifth consecutive game with at least 120 yards rushing, and now leads the league with 944 yards on the ground – an amazing 260 more than anyone else. Think about that for a moment – Portis could take the next two weeks off and still possibly lead the NFL in rushing. Not too shabby.

4. “Get Back” Ludacris (w/ Sum 41)

It’s been a troubling year for special teams coach Danny Smith. While his unit has routinely ranked as one of the better units in the NFL, his guys have struggled to handle the basics this season. Both the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints returned punts for touchdowns this year, the rookie punt ended up getting fired for being the worst in the league in every meaningful category for punters and Antwaan Randle El has officially become the anti-Devin Hester, a.k.a. – the most disappointing punt returner in the game. But other than that, how did you like the play Miss Lincoln?

Fast forward to this week and magically things were much more enjoyable. Kicker Shaun “Shazam” Suisham connected on four of five field goal attempts and someone finally tripped up Randel El before he made it onto the field for another uninspired return. Moss, in the game in place of Randel El, bounced off teammate/would-be tackler Devin Thomas and raced 80 yards for his first punt return for a score since 2002.

Game, set, match.

5. “Rearviewmirror” by Pearl Jam

The Redskins now find themselves in rare company, as one of four teams with six wins. With a 6-2 record at the midpoint of the season, the ‘Skins have blown through every conceivable expectation set prior to the season on a team with a rookie head coach. Even if the team plays .500 ball the rest of the year, they finished with a 10-6 record that pretty much always means playoffs.

There’s a lot to like about this team. Quarterback Jason Campbell is in the top five in the NFL in QB rating. As previously mentioned, Portis leads the league in rushing by a landslide. Moss is in the top five in receiving yards. Middle linebacker London Fletcher is in the top five in tackles.

There’s also reason for concern with this bunch, which seems, for better or for worse, to play to the level of their competition. That’s fine when you’re playing the Super Bowl champions or your hated rival, but not so much when you’re going up against winless punching bags. There’s also the subject of injuries, which seem to be plaguing the Redskins training room. Several of the guys on the offensive line have been banged up and the same goes for key players on the defense like Fred Smoot, Griffin and the oft-injured Springs.

Throw in minor bumps and bruises to Campbell, Portis and Moss and there’s a concern that the key contributors might not be able to play all the way down the stretch. While this team does have more depth than they’re given credit for, there’s always a breaking point. One untimely injury to Portis or Campbell could derail an otherwise promising campaign. But if the ‘Skins can avoid any major injuries and continue to play competitive football week in and week out, fans just may be able to continue this enjoyable ride.

24Oct

losing london’s lunch

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Apologies are due up front, with the lack of action on the blog this week. We’ve been sick all week long (which makes the above photo even more appropriate) and haven’t had much in the way of energy to dedicate to the blog. While Homer McFanboy has been home resting, Dan Steinberg has been getting it done, folks. This week he even managed to tackle a topic that we planned on pursuing this week — middle linebacker London Fletcher’s pre-game ritual of … um … losing his lunch.

“I’m a vomit guy,” Fletcher told Steinberg. “I’m SUCH a vomit guy.”

Fletcher never puked before a game in college, but has been doing throughout his NFL career. He’s not sure what triggered it once he turned pro, but he attributes it to anxiety and nerves.

“By the time it’s game day,” he said, “my stomach’s just so queasy, so to speak, that I have to get out some things before the start of the game.”

Click here for Dan’s full article, if you have the stomach for it.

21Oct

feels like home

(photo by Brian Murphy)

As far as debuts go, running back Shaun Alexander’s start to his Redskins career was a tame one. His first carry went for eight yards, but his two other carries went for one yard and a loss of one. Three carries for eight yards isn’t what one might expect from a former NFL most valuable player, but we’re willing to give Alexander a pass as he gets back into the weekly grind. After the game we had a chance to catch up with Alexander in the locker room to get his take.

Shaun, your first game as a Washington Redskin is in the books. How do you feel?

“It feels good to get a win,” Alexander said. “This is a good thing and I’m honored that I’m a part of such a great team. It was good to get out there and play a little bit.”

It might have taken a little bit longer than you anticipated, but how does it feel to finally be a part of the 2008 season?

“I knew I was eventually going to play,” he said. “I think it was just about when was I finally going to heal up and finding the right team. I thank God every day that it was the Redskins.”

So how did it feel to get a couple carries and to get some hits in there?

“It was good,” he said. “Football is football, you know. It was exciting to go out and play and I’m excited to be a Redskin.”

Is this place starting to feel like home?

“It felt like I was someplace special from the very beginning when I saw Chris [Samuels] and Cornelius [Griffin] sitting in the locker room when I first got here,” Alexander said. “It’s already feeling like home to me.”

More than a few Seattle Seahawk fans warned us that Alexander would be moody and difficult. We’ve had the chance to chat with him twice and have seen nothing but a guy who seems genuinely thrilled to be a part of this tight-knit team with so many players and teammates he has experience with and considers friends. Maybe it’ll happen and he’ll turn the corner for the worse, but in the meantime the ‘Skins have found themselves a cheap and reliable backup for the stretch run.

20Oct

performance anxiety

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Cleveland Browns receiver Braylon Edwards had an interesting quote in last week’s edition of Sports Illustrated. When asked by Peter King of his thoughts about the Browns missing the playoffs, even though they finished the season with a 10-6 record, Edwards had this to say:

“We didn’t deserve it, but the Titans in the playoffs?” he said. “Tampa Bay? The Redskins! You can’t tell me we couldn’t beat the damn Redskins.”

Well, the Browns might not have had their chance to take on the Redskins last season, but as fate would have it, they rolled into FedEx Field this season with a chance to put their money where Edwards’ mouth is.

“They didn’t beat us,” said safety Chris “The Predator” Horton. “Guys can say whatever they want, but in between the white lines all that talking outside of the football field means nothing. You step on the field in between the white lines and the clock is running, then you let your game talk.”

As ‘Skins fans know by now, the maroon and black won 14-11 and the Browns, thanks in part to several dropped balls by Edwards, went home humbled. Anyone want to send Edwards and friends home with a parting gift?

“Well tell him, you can’t beat the Redskins,” said cornerback Fred Smoot. “Point blank. I think we came out there today and proved it.”

But did the Redskins players take it personally when Edwards ran his mouth and called them out in one of the biggest magazines in the country?

“Our forefathers have died and fought for our freedom and for our freedom of speech,” said linebacker Marcus Washington. “You can say whatever you want to say, but when you get out there on the green grass, in between those white lines, it doesn’t matter what you say. People can’t hear you anyways. It’s all about that Riddell. Your helmet, your gear and the guys you’re out there with. All that talk goes out the door and you got to show it with your actions.”

Edwards finished the game with four catches for 58 yards. Not the kind of numbers someone should put up when they personally throw down the gauntlet and challenge a supposedly inferior team. So what did Edwards have to say for himself after the loss?

“I think I was a little frustrated early on in the game, and it just messed with my game,” said Edwards after the game. “As a professional, as a guy who has been here four years, Pro Bowl last year, it’s my job to block out frustrations and play ball. That’s my job on this team, and that’s what they expect me to do. So I just think frustrations got to me today, and I just didn’t perform when they needed me to.”

Couldn’t perform when they needed you? Hey Braylon, we hear they have a pill for that. Maybe your teammate can pick some up for you when hits up the pharmacy this week.

20Oct

browns playlist

(photo by Brian Murphy)

1. “Blow The Whistle” by Jay-Z

The Browns came into the game with a 2-3 record, but they had a sense of confidence after reeling off two-straight wins. The Redskins stood 4-2, but knew the needed to rebound after last week’s humbling 19-17 loss to the previously winless St. Louis Rams.

This game felt like an old-school slugfest. While the temperature was dropping in Raljon, Maryland, things were heating up on the field between the Browns and the ‘Skins. These might be two teams from different conference who were playing each other for only the second time in 17 years, but there definitely seemed to be some bad blood in the air.

As soon as the game started, these two opponents started flexing and jaw-jacking. Seemingly after every play someone had something to say. Cleveland wideout Braylon Edwards shoved Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot. Redskins safety LaRon Landry responded by returning the favor. A half dozen players from each team start chirping back and forth. While it wasn’t the prettiest first half in the history of professional football, the 0-0 tie at halftime was perfectly fitting for this knock-down, drag-out affair.

“You know, they felt kind of good after beating the Super Bowl champs from last year from our division, so I guess that they felt that the NFC East wasn’t that tough,” said Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot. “We wanted to show them that we really are that tough.”

All that was missing was a Jay-Z diss track and we would have had a full-fledged rivalry going on at FedEx Field.

2. “Best Of You” by Foo Fighters

Redskins running back Clinton Portis came into the game with 643 rushing yards, which was tops in the NFL. So what did he do for an encore? He rushed for 175 yards and a touchdown, and ultimately, he showed the ‘Skins offense that it is okay to score points again. While Portis did finish his fourth straight game with more than 120 yards, he also caused a bit of unnecessary drama by fumbling after a 24-yard run on the first play after the Redskins defense’s goal-line stand prevented the Browns from putting points on the board late in the fourth quarter.

We’ll let him slide though, since he has 134 rushing yards more than anyone else in the NFL, seven rushing touchdowns and is averaging five yards a carry on the season. Most importantly, he continues to do the heavy lifting for the Washington Redskins supposed West Coast offense.

3. “Shut ‘Em Down” by Public Enemy

We briefly mentioned the defense’s stellar play earlier, but they deserve much more praise. Last week against the St. Louis Rams, the ‘Skins defense didn’t allow any points. This week, led by middle linebacker London Fletcher, the defense was nearly as impressive, starting with that goal-line stand. The Cleveland Browns had four chances from the four-yard-line or closer and couldn’t find the endzone. Even after Portis’ unfortunate fumble, the defense still didn’t go down without a fight. When Cleveland quarterback Derek Anderson finally connected with receiver Joshua Cribbs on a one-yard score with just under three minutes remaining in the game, it marked the eighth play in which the Redskins defense was asked to make a goal-line stand.

One week after the Browns steamrolled the New York Giants by three touchdowns, Cleveland’s offense was held to just 236 yards of total offense. In the first half, Browns quarterback Derek Anderson completed just three of 14 attempts for 17 yards. Last week, the ‘Skins defense held the Rams to just 200 yards. At this point, saying the stingy Redskins defense is making it tough for the opposition would be an understatement.

4. “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J

Another player who deserves to be singled out is Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers. With fragile cornerback Shawn Springs sidelined yet again, this time with a calf injury, Rogers was asked, once again, to step up and fill the void. And boy did he ever.

Not only did Rogers shut down whoever he lined up against, finishing with a team-high three passes defended. But it was the way Rogers was able to get the job done that had folks after the game seriously asking if that was Carlos’ best game as a Washington Redskin. Between frustrating Edwards and the Browns receivers and the newfound physical aspect of his game, Rogers is finally living up to being a top 10 draft pick.

“He played real well today,” said Smoot. “He tackled well and he did a wonderful job, man.”

But the highlight of Rogers’ game came in the third quarter, when he leveled Cribbs with a jarring hit that left the talented receiver K.O.ed on the ground.

“Coming from a corner? Very physical hit,” said Redskins safety LaRon Landry. “I’ve got no complaints. He done it the way I would do.”

So while Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones might get more airtime, just know that the best cornerback taken in the 2005 NFL draft was Carlos Rogers.

5. “Ready For Whatever” by T.I.

Last week, the Rams won on a last-second 49-yard field goal attempt. This week, the Browns had a chance to force overtime with yet another last-second field goal attempt, this time from 54 yards out. Thankfully, kicker Phil Dawson couldn’t connect. His attempt had the distance, but sailed wide right giving the Redskins the 14-11 victory and helping them to a 5-2 record on the season. All five of those wins have one thing in common – each game was decided by a touchdown or less. So one piece of advice for Redskins fans – don’t miss a minute of the action this season. If the first seven games are any indication, every game this season will come down to the wire.

17Oct

rock the vote

(photo by Brian Murphy)

Longtime fans of the Washington Redskins know that their favorite football team, more than anything else, has a direct effect on who wins the presidential election every four years. Since 1936, the ‘Skins on-the-field results have decided who spends the next four years in the White House (well, except four years ago when the referees took back a would-be Redskins touchdown because of a bogus penalty on wide receiver James Thrash, but we believe they’ve been punished more than enough since then).

So if the Washington Redskins are willing to go to the trouble to select the most powerful leader in the free world, then the least you can do is thank them by showing your support for ‘Skins players in the Pro Bowl voting. Year in and year out, discouraged ‘Skins fans lament the lack of maroon and black players in Hawaii, well this is your chance to do something when you Vote The Redskins Ticket For The 2009 Pro Bowl.

So head over to Redskins.com and cast your vote. Otherwise, we just might have to live in a world where a dozen Dallas Cowboys earn Pro Bowl status year in and year out. None of us want that.

Vote early. Vote often.

* – This message is approved by Cornelius Griffin, who, in the above photo, is rocking his inner “Johnny Drama.”

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