'Skins put backfield in motion

November 16, 2006|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins haven't shredded their 700-page playbook, but the offense they will unveil Sunday in Tampa, Fla., should have a different look - and personality - than the one that has struggled in the team's 3-6 start.

With second-year quarterback Jason Campbell replacing veteran Mark Brunell and a combination of Ladell Betts and T.J. Duckett taking over at running back for Clinton Portis, who yesterday was placed on injured reserve, the moves will put a new face on an offense that has been wildly inconsistent.

"It's not a new offense, our backfield is just a little different right now," said Campbell, who will be making his NFL debut at Raymond James Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-7). "We've done some good things in this offense and you always want to continue doing things you've done well."

It's difficult to say what the Redskins have done well on offense, but with Brunell benched and Portis sidelined for the rest of the season, it's clear that the play-calling will be geared to the talents of their new quarterback and running backs.

Campbell, at 6 feet 4 and 228 pounds, will give the Redskins a bigger, stronger version of what the 36-year-old Brunell used to be - an athletic quarterback who can move around and out of the pocket. Campbell might be able to overcome his lack of experience with the powerful arm he has demonstrated in practice.

Betts, at 5-10 and 222 pounds, gives Washington a tailback who's not afraid to lower his shoulder to pick up extra yards, something Portis admitted to not doing after dislocating his left shoulder in the preseason. Duckett, at 6 feet and 254 pounds, could give the Redskins more of a threat near the goal line.

Collectively, the moves should help breathe new life into a team that seemed close to packing it in with its performance during a 27-3 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday. The players could sense that there was a little more enthusiasm at Redskins Park this week.

"We've got to start fresh somewhere," veteran offensive guard Randy Thomas said. "We've got to put that 3-6 [record] behind us and try put a win together. Two key positions, two big changes, we've got to support those guys and block."

Asked if he had confidence in an unproven quarterback, Thomas said, "You've got to. You can't second-guess blocking for a new quarterback. You block as if he's been back there before."

Said cornerback Carlos Rogers, who played with Campbell at Auburn, "Like I've told him before, things have gone bad around here and they can't get too much worse. Just try to get the team back to where we want to be."

While the Redskins know what to expect from Betts, who has been Portis' backup the past three seasons, Duckett is a bit of an unknown.

After building a reputation for being nearly unstoppable near the goal line with Atlanta - he scored 31 touchdowns in four years with the Falcons - Duckett has mostly sat since being traded to Washington during the preseason when Portis was initially injured.

"I'm excited. I haven't played in a while," said Duckett, who carried twice for 16 yards after Portis broke a bone in his right hand against the Eagles, and has rushed only seven times for 40 yards this season.

As excited as the Redskins have felt the past couple of days with the changes, it has been a trying week for Brunell and Portis.

The demotion certainly signals the end of Brunell's career in Washington after this season and, possibly, the end of his NFL career.

"It's tough, because you work hard," Brunell said. "To not get to finish this one is tough, because this is what we do for a living. You go out there and compete and you try to win football games and to not have that opportunity, it's pretty difficult."

Asked if he was surprised by the move, Brunell said, "I would say I was disappointed, but I wasn't shocked."

For Portis, being put on injured reserve was the culmination of a painful and frustrating season.

It began with the shoulder injury he sustained making a tackle after a Brunell interception in the opening preseason game. Portis later sprained his ankle against Indianapolis, then had his neck twisted against Philadelphia before suffering his season-ending broken hand.

Portis, who rushed for a franchise-record 1,516 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2005, had 127 carries for 523 yards and seven touchdowns this season.

Portis had surgery to repair his hand on Monday and has been advised by team officials to consider surgery on his shoulder as well. He admitted that he would like to rest the shoulder to see if he can strengthen it rather than undergo surgery.

Portis said it's "only a matter of time" before injuries catch up with any running back. "Fortunately for me, it was minor things that can be repaired that won't linger into next season."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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