The Washington Redskins are swapping running backs left and right to cope with a rash of injuries. The ‘Skins promoted James Davis from the practice squad to replace back-up running back Chad Simpson who broke his foot during pregame warm-ups of the Tennessee Titans game. (How does a thing like that happen?)
Simpson was on the roster as a back-stop to Ryan Torain who was filling in for starting tailback Clinton Portis who missed five games due to a groin tear. Torain is “97 percent certain” to miss the Minnesota Vikings game due to a hamstring injury, according to head coach Mike Shanahan. Washington is down to three healthy backs, Keiland Williams, Darrel Young and Davis.
If you are like me, and I know I am, you might be wondering what if Ladell Betts were here?
Betts was pushed out by the Shanahan regime. He is remembered in Washington for standing in for Portis in 2006. Portis, you recall, dislocated his shoulder in a preseason game and missed half the season. Betts had a career year with 1,599 yards of total offense, five touchdowns, and 81 first downs. Can’t we use that performance now?
As good as it was, there are two problems with Betts’ numbers. First, Betts scored but five touchdowns on 298 touches (rush attempts plus pass receptions), or one score for every 60 touches. Clinton Portis, playing with an injured shoulder, scored seven touchdowns on 144 touches. Portis was three times more productive per touch than Betts, or anyone else on the team. Where Betts was a rusher, Portis was a scorer.
Second, Betts was 27 years old in 2006.
We hardly miss him. Keiland Williams (24) has 357 yards total offense on 73 touches with five touchdowns, roughly one score for every 15 touches. Betts, now 31 and with New Orleans, scored twice on 68 touches, a 1:34 ratio. Williams (5-11, 223 lbs) is near-identical in size and weight to Betts (5-11, 224 lbs) and Portis (5-11, 219 lbs).
If you are like me, and I know I am, you like the score to touch ratio provided by Williams and Ryan Torain (99 touches, four scores) and you like their youth.
Shanahan frustrates fantasy owners with his running back by committee schemes. But it works for real teams and especially for Shanahan. Philadelphia’s emergence as the most dynamic young offense in the Beast adds urgency Washington’s need to get younger.
While we appreciate what ‘Skins alum Betts did back then, there’s no looking back now.