In Duckett, Redskins Show How Not to Run a Team

A rare sight: Redskins running back T.J. Duckett carrying the football. The Redskins traded two draft picks for Duckett in the offseason; he has had 12 carries.
A rare sight: Redskins running back T.J. Duckett carrying the football. The Redskins traded two draft picks for Duckett in the offseason; he has had 12 carries. (By Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

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By Les Carpenter
Monday, November 20, 2006

TAMPA You would think this decision was simple.

The Redskins have in their employ a running back who has proved in his career to be fearsome near the end zone, who has a reputation of being so strong that the first attempt at a tackle will usually not hold him. This running back did not come to them cheaply, probably costing them a third-round pick in next year's draft and a fourth-round pick in 2008.

But even worse is that this running back with bulldozing shoulders and a steep price barely plays. Most weeks he sits unused.

This happens not because he has blown assignments, missed meetings, broken rules or committed any of the other infractions that lock a player of T.J. Duckett's talent to the bottom of the depth chart.

Rather, the Redskins simply decided after trading for him that they didn't need him. They had acquired him as a late-summer emergency replacement for Clinton Portis. And even when Portis went down, there was always Ladell Betts and Mike Sellers.

Which meant T.J. Duckett just didn't fit.

In a year in which the Redskins' offseason moves are constantly drawing scrutiny, the trade for Duckett might be the most perplexing.

Why on earth did they get him if he wasn't going to play?

Sunday he got into a game for only the fourth time this season. He didn't start because the game plan was drawn up for someone else, but when he happened to get on the field he did what he has constantly done this season on the rare occasions he has carried the ball.

He gained yards. A significant amount of yards. This time 26 on five carries, which averages out to 5.2 yards every time he carried the ball.

Duckett has averaged 5.5 yards a carry this season. This is not a fluke. Three times in his five-year career he has averaged at least four yards a rush. But now he barely plays.

When Duckett arrived there were whispers he would not like the move, that he sees himself as a starting running back. He is a former first-round draft pick, and he was looking forward to a big year in Atlanta with free agency looming. Instead he has been graceful in his perplexing situation. Given opportunities to gripe, he has smiled. Afforded many occasions to sulk, he has instead cheered his teammates, offering backslaps and praise.


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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