Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Duckett Conspiracy

They told us the Redskins were in good shape at running back, even with Clinton Portis' injury. Al Saunders raved all off-season about Ladell Betts. Then BAM! Here comes T.J. Duckett.

Stunning. The move was so out of left field, to use a baseball analogy, that Master4caster struggles to grasp the meaning. This is Washington, so there must be a conspiracy.

  1. Portis is more hurt than they are letting on. Misinformation is an NFL tradition that predates even George Allen, who was paranoid about everything football. Shoulder dislocations are the type injury (I read long ago) that heals but stings like heck with every new impact, that is to say, on Portis' every play. He's stalwart enough to play with pain, but we are talking a nineteen game season here. The Skins lost the Seattle playoff game last season partially because Portis was worn out. And he was healthy then. TJ is here for the heavy hitting for the first four-to-six games so that Portis can heal completely. Call it the Save Clinton Until the Playoffs theory.
  2. The "Ladell is really good" talk was just hype to draw trade offers. When the chips are down, as they are now, maybe Betts and the rest of the crew aren't up to championship snuff. Jason LaCanforia reported in The Post that all of the running backs were shocked at hearing the news and confused about their status. Call it the Truth is Out theory.
  3. They planned this all along. Coach-in-chief Joe Gibbs is quoted in the LaCanforia article as saying "the trade was not completed solely as a precaution in case Portis' injury lingers." "Solely" implies that there were other considerations cooking before Portis injury. CP is a great talent, but more in the vein of Joe Washington than John Riggins. Duckett, all 250 pounds of him, is the type of big back that Gibbs always used to bludgeon defenses by running through the line. Add to that Gibbs' insistence that all of the current backs have a role, and Master4caster concludes that this is not a stopgap move. If CP is not asked to be the power back all the time, then he can be free to make those outside sweeps and receptions for big yards-after-the-catch that he did with Denver. Call it the Let Clinton Be Clinton theory.
  4. A version of the Let Clinton theory, is the Confound the Opponents theory. How do rivals prepare for the Redskins running game now? If they crowded the line with eight defenders like last season for Portis, do they defend with nine with Mike Sellers and Duckett in the backfield? With only a safety on Santana Moss? What if it's Sellers and Randle-El in the backfield? If Brunell hands off the Randle-El, is he running or passing? What if Portis or Randle-El line up in the slot? A linebacker will cover them. Does that free Duckett to crash up the middle? Duckett's addition does for the running game what Brandon Lloyd and Randle-El does for the passing game. Clever.
  5. With uncertainty about Brian Westbrook and questions about Corell Buckhalter, the Eagles look to add a big back. They are talking to Stephen Davis and were nosing around Duckett. If you are Gregg Williams, who do you least want to see in a green jersey, Davis or Duckett? Lets throw a monkey wrench in Philadelphia's plan. Call it the Die Eagles Die theory. If true, that means the division race has already begun.
  6. Ladell Betts is playing in his contract year. So is Duckett. It's unlikely the Skins keep both on next year's roster, but by playing one off against the other, and limiting their carries, the Redskins gain negotiation leverage. Call it the Aren't We Being Clever theory.
  7. Then, there is the Denver is Really Stupid theory, best expressed by Ben Folsum's Goodbye Ladell article at The Curly R.

TJ Duckett was the eighteenth pick in the first round of the 2002 draft. He was selected after a successful college career at Michigan State. However, he never cracked the Atlanta Falcons starting line-up, losing carries to the versatile Warrick Dunn. Duckett is something of a scoring machine with 31 touchdowns in 39 games.

At State, Duckett, ran for 3,379 yards on 621 carries (5.4 ave.) for 29 touchdowns. He might have broken all of MSU's rushing records had he not left campus a year early for the NFL 2002 draft. He needed 1,509 yards to break Lorenzo White's career yardage, and 833 yards to eclipse older brother Tico's career yardage. Known as "The Diesel" in college (he won't be called that with the Redskins), Duckett rarely caught passes out of the backfield. He only caught 29 passes for 233 yards with the Falcons. In the "it's a small world" category, older brother Tico Duckett spent a short time on the Redskins roster, but has no stats to show for it. TJ also rejoins college teammate Lamar Marshall, Redskins middle linebacker.

While Duckett is the stronger ground pounder, Betts has caught more passes out of the backfield and contributes on special teams. Betts' versatility could be more valuable to the Redskins, while Duckett, like Chris Carter, only scores touchdowns.

The Skins go into tonight's exhibition game against the Patriots with lots of questions. John Keim summarized it best in his article in The Examiner. It's about time for the team to answer, to show that they are taking this preseason as seriously as New York and Dallas, both 2-0 at this point. Keim's piece can be found here.


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