Scouting the Running Backs/Fullbacks

Ladell Betts

Insiders will take a look at each position, analyzing the Redskins' strengths and weaknesses. Today we look at the the running backs/fullbacks. Key players: RB Trung Canidate, RB Ladell Betts, RB Kenny Watson, RB Chad Morton, FB Bryan Johnson, FB Rock Cartwright.

Key players: RB Trung Canidate, RB Ladell Betts, RB Kenny Watson, RB Chad Morton, FB Bryan Johnson, FB Rock Cartwright.

Analysis: One of the most interesting storylines in camp will be who gets cut from this group. Watson is the only running back among the four who was already here when this coaching staff arrived. But he also might do more things well than any of the other backs. This group lacks a proven everydown back, though it has a few players capable of inflicting damage in the right spots.

Can't wait to see: Morton on third down. In minicamp he looked very, very elusive and squiggly. Yes squiggly. He never had a chance to play much from scrimmage in New York and he won't be anything more than an occasional weapon here. His return duties will limit his offensive role. Still, it'll be fun to see DB's trying to tackle him. If they're not right on him, he'll shake them.

Don't be fooled by: Canidate's speed. Yes it's great, but he needs more than that to succeed and I'm skeptical that he has it. I'm certainly not ready to proclaim him the best back of this unit. He's too unproven. Canidate never excelled in St. Louis, partly because he was stuck behind Marshall Faulk and partly because he just didn't play well. One knock: he consistently ran the wrong pass routes, leading to interceptions. His hands were OK at best. And, remember, he played in a high-powered offense that should have opened up lots of running lanes for him. Maybe the Redskins can turn him around. If they can't, he only cost them a fourth-round pick and David Loverne, a trade I'd make every day of the week.

Thing I wonder about, if Canidate struggles, will they cut him? They have to.

One to watch: Betts. He finished strong after looking like a bust through the first half of the season. Betts started to grasp the offense and ran hard--he has a strong lower body. His big thing is to improve in pass protection and as a receiver. Both are crucial elements to this offense. Pass protection is usually one of the hardest things for a running back to pick up. And that's why Betts sat behind Watson much of the time. Watson filled that role better.

Rookies to watch?: Not really. Sultan McCullough has speed, but he's the slowest fast guy I've ever seen. That was evident watching him run in and out of cones during a drill at minicamp. He couldn't cut and maintain his speed.

Trouble spots: If Canidate plays like he did in St. Louis it robs the Redskins of a potential home run threat. He fumbled too often with the Rams and that will land him on the bench here, too. The Redskins can survive without Canidate being their top back--look at what Watson and Betts did when given the chance last season. But they'd be more explosive if he succeeds.

Strengths: There's no standout, but there is depth. And there are players who can do what this offense needs, like run draws. Morton and Canidate both have a chance to break long gainers on that play. Both also can split out wide, as can Watson, who is the best at picking up the blitz, too. Imagine a receiver set on one side of the field with Canidate, WR Laveranues Coles and WR Cliff Russell. That's killer speed. I also like that Hue Jackson is coaching this group. If there's talent there, he'll squeeze it out.

Bryan Johnson is OK coming out of the backfield and has developed into a decent blocker. He has good speed for a fullback and is adept picking up blitzes. He's fine. Cartwright is tough, but his height will always be a factor.

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