Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Stump Mitchell: 'Clinton could've worked harder'

Besides Albert Haynesworth, one of the biggest targets of criticism this season was certainly Clinton Portis and his apparent lack of conditioning. Portis was occasionally seen gasping for air on the sidelines after a 10-yard run (though there weren't many of them) and didn't seem to be as in shape as the Portis of earlier seasons.

Stump Mitchell, the Redskins running backs coach the last two seasons who is now leaving to take the head coaching job at Southern University, offered similar thoughts when asked to reflect on Portis, according to an article in The Washington Post.

Said Mitchell:

"That's the only disappointment that I'll have. The fact that I couldn't persuade Clinton to do it a different way," Mitchell said Monday. "I want Clinton to be the best back in the league. But in order for that to happen, you have to prepare for it. But I don't know if that's what Clinton wants to do." . . . Asked if Portis's practice habits and offseason conditioning have held him back, Mitchell said: "That's a slam dunk. Clinton could've worked harder."

"He's got to do that," Mitchell continued, "and [owner Daniel Snyder] has to understand that that's what has to be done. In order for the Redskins to be successful, that's what Clinton has to do. He has to change the way he's done things in the past in order for them to be successful as a team."

Depending on the cap situation and what new head coach Mike Shanahan decides, the Redskins may or may not cut Portis. But, according to the same article, "if [the Redskins] released [Portis] before June, the team could still face a cap hit of as much as $14.8 million." Ouch.

Speaking of production, or lack thereof, it's hard to argue that the offensive line wasn't holding the Redskins offense back this season. The offensive line was the weakest part of the team -- and the most in need of an upgrade. But in terms of run blocking, the line wasn't nearly as bad in that department as in trying to protect Jason Campbell (and failing miserably). I mention this because as far as Portis's yards per carry average goes, his numbers have been fairly consistent. Here are his YPC numbers in his six seasons in Washington:

2004-2005: 3.8
2005-2006: 4.3
2006-2007: 4.1
2007-2008: 3.9
2008-2009: 4.3
2009-2010: 4.0

It's impossible to tell how much better Portis could have been if he completely devoted himself to getting in the best shape possible, especially with the beating he's taken since joining the Redskins. But we'll never know that.

The best thing Portis can do now to remain with the Redskins is to work as hard as possible to prepare for the upcoming season. Even though he's older now and isn't the same player he was back in 2002, maybe he'll get some motivation from this: In his two seasons in Denver, Portis averaged 5.5 yards per carry and ran for over 1,500 yards in both seasons. If anyone can get a little more productivity out of Portis, it's Shanahan.

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