Rock's chance to roll; a Gray-to-Memphis report
At the beginning of the season, the coaching staff made it clear veteran running back Rock Cartwright would not have a role on offense.
The Redskins had four running backs on the opening 53-man roster (they carried five at one point) and Cartwright was last on the depth chart at the position. Although active every week because of his standout work on special teams, Cartwright was he was the odd man out in the backfield mix, barring a catastrophic situation. Well, that's kind of what the Redskins have experienced with their running game.
Top back Clinton Portis has sat out the last two games because of lingering vision problems from a concussion and backup Ladell Betts suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 7-6 Week 11 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
Cartwright stepped up when Betts went down, contributing 67 yards rushing (with a 5.2-yard average) and team-highs with seven receptions for 73 yards. With Cartwright and recent addition Quinton Ganther the only physically sound backs on the roster, the Redskins on Tuesday brought back Marcus Mason for what seems like his 50th stint with the team (actually, it's his fourth).
Mason was one of the many backs previously ahead of Cartwright -- one of six team captains -- whom many players and coaches consider the team's emotional leader. Although Mason and Ganther are expected to get some opportunities in the backfield during the final six games for the Redskins (7-3), it appears Cartwright will be the new No. 1, at least until (if?) Portis returns.
Cartwright definitely has earned the opportunity to start Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
"I've been waiting for this opportunity. The last time I started was 2003 against Chicago, so I'm looking forward to this opportunity," Cartwright said. "I've got to work extra hard at practice this week, and just continue to believe in my O-line, they're doing a great job for me, and the guys around me.
"I've got to try to protect Jason [Campbell] a little bit more. I gave up a sack [Sunday] on a blitz pickup, and that's unacceptable on my part. So I've got to get that corrected, but I'm excited about the opportunity."
Gray to Memphis?
Secondary coach Jerry Gray is the leading candidate for the head-coaching position at the University of Memphis, according to a report in the Commercial Appeal.
Gray and LSU assistant Larry Porter reportedly are at the top of Memphis' list.
Gray flew into Memphis on Monday, had breakfast with FedEx executives Tuesday and later interviewed with UofM president Shirley Raines, athletic director R.C. Johnson and FedEx founder and CEO Fred Smith before flying out Tuesday afternoon.
Gray's connection to the Memphis job appears to be Redskins defensive quality control coach Arthur Smith, son of the FedEx founder and CEO. A part owner of the Redskins, Fred Smith also is a prominent UofM booster whose youngest son, Cannon, is a quarterback for the Tiger football team. Cannon is sitting out this season per NCAA guidelines after transferring from the University of Miami in the summer. He will have three years of eligibility remaining starting next fall.
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