For Redskins, Larry Johnson Is No Substitute For Clinton Portis

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For Redskins, Larry Johnson Is No Substitute For Clinton Portis
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

We are seven days into the 2010 NFL new year and the biggest free agent move by the Washington Redskins happened Friday. Washington signed free agent running back Larry Johnson to a modest, $3.5 million, three-year deal according to an ESPN story  by Adam Schefter.

Clinton Portis bashers should not gloat yet. Johnson is unlikely to replace Portis anytime soon.

The fan narrative of the 2009 offense ends with the entire unit blown up and rebuilt.

Coaching staff? Check. Release seven offensive players? Check.

But Clinton Portis and Jason Campbell, who each face considerable fan disenchantment, are still at Redskin Park.

I have concerns for Campbell's future, but Johnson's numbers don't measure up to a healthy Clinton Portis. Check this comparison for the past three seasons:

PORTIS 29 40 791 3243 4.1 21 154:1
JOHNSON 30 34 529 2054 3.9 8 256:1

Clinton Portis is a scorer, making one touchdown for every 154 yards gained. Johnson needed 256 yards for every rushing score from 2007 to 2009.

Portis' three year performance dropped somewhat from his career average of one score for every 133 yards. Johnson is way off his career average pace of one touchdown for every 113 yards. Johnson last scored double-digit touchdowns (17) in 2006.

While Portis annoyed a portion of Washington fans, he was not driven out of town as was Johnson in Kansas City. Chiefs fans held that Johnson didn't deserve to break Priest Holmes' team rushing record. Priest is saint in Kansas City. Fans petitioned Kansas City to drop Johnson. He was traded to Cincinnati.

Johnson has had run-ins with the coaching staff ever since Dick Vermeil.

The Chiefs barred Johnson from practicing with the team after he tweeted his disdain for head coach Todd Haley last October.

The Chiefs in recent years have been having a tougher time than the Redskins and Haley was a rookie coach. In similar circumstances, Portis handled the travail (somewhat) better than Johnson.

It's highly unlikely Johnson or Portis will pull such stunts with Shanahan.

The surprise is that Johnson, a power runner, would find favor in Shanahan's West Coast Offense. Portis was a slashing edge rusher in Shanahan's offense in Denver.

We expect Shanny to be following a well thought out plan. We also expect to see the one-back formation in Washington's offense. It doesn't figure we'll see both Portis and Johnson on the field at the same time.

Johnson doesn't offer Washington anything more than recently departed Ladell Betts did, except a lower cost contract.

However, if the coaches cannot solve Washington's long-term wide-receiver deficiency, they might pound the ball more on the ground, a la Joe Gibbs. Then, Larry Johnson just might be the ground pounder Washington needs, whether he scores or not.

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