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Redskins-Cowboys matchups: the running backs

This breakdown could go either way, because there are question marks surrounding both the Redskins and Cowboys. There are questions about both teams' offensive lines. There are questions about the durability of both backfields. The age factor is also a question looming over the Redskins running backs.

I don't see this being a game in which the backs can get outside. Both defenses have a strong outside presences, with Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo for the Skins, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer for the Cowboys. So I look for both teams to try to run between the tackles.

Clinton Portis is a gifted runner and is coming into the season healthy and in shape. I look for him to run it up in there strong with consistency. He may have plays where he breaks through and has some running room, but I look for him to mostly get 3-to 4-yard gains. Larry Johnson may end up being the go-to back. His size and strength may give LJ more of a chance to have longer runs inside the tackles. It's rare that a back of his size can move the way that he does, and it may be just what the Skins use to try and break the run game open. Either way, the Skins are going to need one of these guys to step up and find his way through that line of scrimmage if they are to have any chance of winning.

As for the Boys - and I enjoy calling them the Boys considering that this is a man's game (shameless shot, I know) - the running backs are very talented. Marion Barber is the hard-running workhorse. He will look to soften the belly of the Redskins defense for the speed of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice. If Barber can wear down the Redskins defensive front, it may turn into a run-heavy Dallas attack Sunday night.

This matchup is too close to give an edge to either team, so this will be a push. I think these are both talented backfields and should be fun to watch.
What set of backs do you give the nod to and why?

By LaVar Arrington  |  September 10, 2010; 4:49 PM ET
 
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Comments

That assessment sounds about right. I think the running game will be more dependent on the O-line than the actual backs.

Go Skins!

Posted by: cbs75 | September 10, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

I give the edge to Portis, mostly because of the Skins new zone blocking scheme. We all know he had some issues with blockers in the past. He seems to be pretty stoked about Shanahan's system. Doesn't mean we'll win but I give him the benefit of the doubt.

Posted by: sbdc2 | September 10, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Seeing a LOT of homersim here with these comments. Seriously, you guys are calling it a "draw" or even picking the skins running game over the Cowboys? Granted, Portis is more motivated this year and in better shape....Buuuuuut he, along with LJ are older backs on the back side of their careers. The Cowboys on the other have 3....THREE young running backs and it is a fairly unanimous opinion that any of the three can be a starter on most other teams....Barber, Jones and Choice....clearly the edge is the "Boys" regardless of the O lines...

Posted by: jacob21703 | September 10, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I agree with jacobs comment. The (proven) talent is with the cowboys. They have great physical runners and tremendous speed in that backfield. I love these hardhits breakdowns, and they are well written, but can we do some cross comparisons? I feel a huge key to this game is the boys only carrying three CBs...and our tremendous depth at TE....

Posted by: sanjuan1227 | September 10, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

jacob21703, you must be in a 'silver and blue haze' to think that Dallas' RBs are better than the Redskins' tandem of Portis/Johnson. Both are more proven backs compared to Barber/Jones/Choice, and Portis has very good games vs. Dallas. Furthermore, everyone knows Dallas is a 'pass-first, and if the pass doesn't work...PASS SOME MORE' offense, meaning an emphasis on the run is not in their game plan. When was the last time a Dallas RB had a 100+ yd performance??

Posted by: marcarutledge@yahoo.com | September 10, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

jacob21703, you must be in a 'silver and blue haze' to think that Dallas' RBs are better than the Redskins' tandem of Portis/Johnson. Both are more proven backs compared to Barber/Jones/Choice, and Portis has very good games vs. Dallas. Furthermore, everyone knows Dallas is a 'pass-first, and if the pass doesn't work...PASS SOME MORE' offense, meaning an emphasis on the run is not in their game plan. When was the last time a Dallas RB had a 100+ yd performance??
*******************************************

It's hard to have a 100 yard rusher when you have three "studs" to divide the carries among. Last year Dallas averaged over 130 yds/game rushing, not too shabby!
Jones averaged nearly six per carry, and Choice well over five. "Bash, Dash, and Tash" led the 'Boys to a team average of 4.8 yds/carry. That stacks up with any team. Granted, that 130 yards was only 1/3 of the over 400 yards per game they averaged, but a two to one ratio of passing to rushing hardly projects "no emphasis" on the running game, it's actually very healthy.

Posted by: kingsra | September 10, 2010 7:47 PM | Report abuse

I hate to say I'm somewhat leaning towards jacobs comments on this one.I hate to give the Cowboys credit for ANYTHING,but I cant give us the edge,maybe a tie,and thats cuz Portis blocks like a madman and will take on anybody,but thats about as much as I can give us in that match-up.

Posted by: smittdiddy | September 10, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

We will have a great running game on sunday. Our offensive scheme will be so aggresive that it will make wade Dizzy....Jacob and company , may i suggest that you boys join the site for Dallas news.....Go skins

Posted by: mazbar | September 10, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm sick of supposed fans saying Portis & L.J are on the backside of there careers.Give me a break.These guys have something to prove and who better to prove it on than the boys.
On a different note Lavar I enjoy reading your articles.I believe you tell it like it is and thats what I want to hear comeing from a behind the scenes reporter who has been there and done that...Yuns are doing a great job.

Posted by: hunterpyroattackpo | September 10, 2010 10:49 PM | Report abuse

Lavar,

I enjoy your take. I was feeling really good about the Skins' chances until you brought up the running game. The weakness of the Skins defense seemed to be the running game throughout the preseason. Do you feel the Cowboys apparent O-line woes most affects the running or the passing game? Pass defense seemed to be a strength for the Skins. It seemed to me that the Skins were doing a better job tackling this preseason, but were missing assignments. How long do you think it will take until the players feel more comfortable with the new scheme?

Posted by: dannykurland1 | September 11, 2010 12:01 AM | Report abuse

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