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Redskins Succeed When Portis Does, but Back Isn't Clamoring for More Touches

Clinton Portis ran for 34 yards on his first carry Sunday, then for 28 on his next 15. The Redskins were 8-4 last season when he had at least 20 carries.
Clinton Portis ran for 34 yards on his first carry Sunday, then for 28 on his next 15. The Redskins were 8-4 last season when he had at least 20 carries. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Before practice Wednesday, Chris Cooley walked to the bulletin board near the entrance of the Washington Redskins' locker room and used a pushpin to hang a copy of an e-mail he had just received from a fan. The letter quickly erupted into a string of bawdy insults, more than two dozen angry expletives and ripped no fewer than seven players, from Jason Campbell to Clinton Portis.

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"YOU [expletive] NEED TO START PLAYING WITH SOME HEART, PASSION, AND LOVE FOR THE GAME Instead out there collecting paychecks," it said. "The only team I see out there with some heart are the cheerleaders."

Just about every Redskins player knows he's ripe for scrutiny and dissection heading into the home opener against the St. Louis Rams. The Redskins know they have to improve on both sides of the ball Sunday, and for the offensive unit, that likely means getting more touches for Portis.

Asked whether he'd like to see a big game from his big running back, Coach Jim Zorn said, "I'm hip-hip-hooraying that thought."

Recent history suggests a good afternoon of touches for Portis usually means a pleasant week of basking in a win.

"Everything predicates on your run game," Campbell said.

In the Sunday's season-opening loss at the New York Giants, Portis had 62 yards. As the offense struggled to stay on the field, Portis had only 16 carries. A year ago, the Redskins were 0-4 when Portis failed to notch 20 carries. Over the course of his Redskins career, Washington is just 9-20 when he fails to carry 20 times.

And since Portis joined the team in 2004, the Redskins are 21-4 when he rushes for at least 100 yards. Last year, they were 5-1. That lone loss a season ago was against the Rams.

Told that his offense doesn't seem to go when Portis isn't pushing it, Zorn said, "I disagree with that."

Zorn envisions a well-rounded offense with multiple threats, but the Redskins have yet to show the rest of the league that those other weapons can be consistently effective.

Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis's first-year coach, has seen plenty of Portis and the Redskins, having spent the past two seasons as defensive coordinator for the Giants and the previous eight as a defensive assistant in Philadelphia.

"He makes it go," Spagnuolo said of Portis. "And when he gets going, that offense is twice as effective. I have always had great respect for him."

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