Washington Redskins: For Ladell Betts To Star, He Must Score

Anthony BrownCorrespondent INovember 20, 2009

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ladell Betts #46 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the New York Giants on September 13, 2009 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

One good game against Denver and people are ready to start Washington Redskin running back Ladell Betts over Clinton Portis. Shades of 2006.

Portis suffered a freak injury during a preseason game that year. He played hurt for eight games before going on the injured reserve list.

Betts stepped up to be the bright spot in a dismal season.

Fans called for the Redskins to bench or trade Portis in favor of Betts.

See if you can spot the anomaly in Betts' and Portis' 2006 rushing performance.

Betts: 16 games, 9 starts 245 carries, 4 TDs

Portis: 8 games, 7 starts, 127 carries, 7 TDs.

Portis was three times more productive as a scorer, with one touchdown for every 18 carries. Betts carried 62 times per score.

Offense-challenged teams cannot afford that production.

To his credit, Betts is more effective this year with two touchdowns on 52 carries. That promises one score per game.

But, is one good game enough to make line-up changes? Uh, no.

If they are smart, the Redskins will try to win games the Joe Gibbs way: run the ball and beat you up with defense.

Washington's next three opponents, the Cowboys, Eagles and Saints, are vulnerable on the ground. They rank eighth, ninth and 20th in run defense.  

For Betts to put the star in starter, he must score against those guys.   

There is a great reason to start Betts over Portis, though. But it isn't rushing. It's receiving.

In 2006, Betts caught 53 passes adding a touchdown and 443 yards to his total offense stats. He's not been a prominent part of the Jim Zorn-Sherm Lewis West Coast scheme yet. We have to hope that will come as soon as Sunday.

As for Portis, maybe Indiana Jones put it best: It's not the years. It's the mileage (Raiders Of The Lost Ark ).

Tiki Barber rushed 2217 times in his 10 year career with the New York Giants. Portis in 7.5 seasons has 2176 rushing attempts.

Wear and tear is the big factor with Portis, not any character issues tacked to him.

He isn't done yet. So Betts has to play his way into the starting line-up and take the debate off the table. Betts has to score more than Portis.