By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 20, 2010; 2:59 AM
In the the past five games without Clinton Portis in the backfield, the Washington Redskins' running game showed few signs of a fall-off in terms of yardage. The team averaged just four fewer yards per game than they did when Portis was healthy and in the lineup for the first four games of the season.
But his absence has certainly been felt in other ways. For example, in Portis's four starts, the Redskins allowed six sacks, an average of 11/2 per game. In the five games without him, they've allowed 19 sacks, an average of nearly four per game.
"You've got a guy with a lot of experience. We know what type of blocker he is. If he can come back full speed, he adds a lot to our offense," Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said. "He's got a lot of confidence, knows the system, knows defenses. He's got a little bit of a swagger to him that you like on the football field."
Shanahan will welcome Portis back to the lineup Sunday in Tennessee. The groin injury that has kept Portis on the sidelines since the Oct. 3 win at Philadelphia is finally healthy enough for the ninth-year running back to return to the field.
"It's exciting to be back," Portis said. "I felt good."
Shanahan said following practice Friday that Portis was able to test his groin this week and is healthy enough to play against the Titans, who rank 11th in the NFL against the run this season. Fellow running back Ryan Torain, however, has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Titans because of a hamstring injury.
After Portis injured his groin last month, coaches estimated he would miss four to six weeks. Portis missed five games and the team's bye week but was able to participate in practices this week.
"If we didn't feel good about him, we wouldn't play him," Shanahan said. "He looked like he'd be good to go. . . . He's had a good couple days of practice. Hopefully, there's no setback."
Portis, who also missed the final eight games of the 2009 season because of a concussion, has 195 yards on 49 carries this season, an average of four yards per carry. He has two rushing touchdowns in four games.
Shanahan wouldn't discuss Portis's exact role Sunday against the Titans.
"I'm not going to go into detail about workload we'll give him, but he's going to play in the game," Shanahan said.
If Portis can't handle the full load, Torain will not be an option. Torain started four games in Portis's place and had 391 yards and three touchdowns on 91 carries. He topped 100 yards in two of his four starts before injuring his hamstring in the Oct. 31 loss at Detroit.
Coming off the bye week, Shanahan thought Torain would be healthy enough to play Monday against the Eagles, but he tweaked his hamstring in pregame warmups and spent the entire night on the sidelines.
Torain was not able to practice this week and Shanahan said he wasn't certain whether the second-year running back would be able to return for the team's Nov. 28 game against Minnesota.
"You really don't know. I thought he was going to be back this week," Shanahan said. "Like I said last week, we had three good days of practice. . . . All of a sudden right before the game, he set himself back. I was really kind of surprised. I thought it was just a mild tweak and he'd be ready to go this week."
Rookie Keiland Williams started in the backfield last week and had 89 yards on 16 carries, plus two rushing touchdowns and one receiving. If Portis handles the bulk of the workload Sunday, Williams could return to his role as the team's third-down back.
Shanahan must still decide how many running backs to activate for Sunday's game. The only other healthy tailback is Chad Simpson, who has been inactive the past three weeks and has yet to notch a carry this season. Only Williams was healthy last week, and the team used fullback Darrel Young as an emergency tailback.
"Any time you go with two guys, you feel both guys are very healthy. You still have to have a plan, like we did with DY last week," Shanahan said. "You've got to have a third guy or you've got to have an alternate package with four or five wide receivers and the ability to go a lot different directions."
Notes: Right tackle Jammal Brown, who suffered a head injury in Monday's loss to Philadelphia, passed a concussion test this week and will be able to play Sunday at Tennessee. . . .
After injuring his thigh and groin late in the game against the Eagles, right guard Artis Hicks was limited Friday. Will Montgomery took snaps in his place this week and would start at right guard if Hicks can't play. . . .
The NFL on Friday decided not to fine or punish Landry after investigating accusations that he spit at Philadelphia center Mike McGlynn in the loss to the Eagles.