A while back, I wrote about the importance of these remaining weeks of the season for the Redskins, even as the losses pile up and they sink lower and lower in the standings. Since the roster, at this stage, is still very much a work in progress, I said:
Why not turn the second half of the season into a tryout camp of sorts? If there’s a guy on the waiver wire who intrigues them, they should claim him. If there’s a street free agent out there who might be better than what they’ve got, they should sign him. We’re midway through Year 2 of the Mike Shanahan era, and things already are well behind schedule. If most of the holes in the roster haven’t been patched over by Year 3, there’s a good chance there won’t be a Year 4.
That’s kind of what’s happened in the days since. Recent pickups such as Tyler Polumbus, David Anderson and Tashard Choice have quickly been given playing time. Indeed, all three were on the field Sunday when the Redskins drove 89 yards at the end of regulation to tie the Cowboys and send the game into overtime.
If Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen are smart, this will be just the beginning. Over the final month and a half, they’ll lead the league in tryouts – heck, they’ll put a revolving door on Redskins Park. They owe to their owner, who pays them handsomely, and to the fans, who are more loyal than the team deserves.
Besides, there are players out there who can make them better. There are always players out there who can make them better. Did you see what the Lions’ Kevin Smith did against the Panthers on Sunday?
Smith is a 24-year-old running back who was on the street – unemployed and available – at the same time the Redskins claimed Choice on waivers from Dallas. He was originally a third-round pick of the Lions and had a couple of solid seasons for them (1,262 yards from scrimmage as a rookie in 2008, 1,162 the following year). But injuries landed him twice on IR, and Detroit cut ties with him in the offseason.
Earlier this month, though, when Jahvid Best suffered another concussion, the Lions needed a back. So they re-signed Smith – and in just his second game, he torched Carolina for 140 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving. He also ran for two touchdowns and caught a pass for another.
Do you have any idea how rare it is for a player to gain 200 yards from scrimmage in a game and score both rushing and receiving? Put it this way, the only other guy who has done it this year is the Texans’ Arian Foster – who, for my money, is the best all-around back in football.
And again, two weeks ago, Smith was there for the taking – by the Lions, the Redskins or anybody else. We’ll have to see how Choice does – and how Smith’s body holds up – but this is a classic example of what I’m talking about. Team building should be a never-ending process for an NFL club, certainly a club as needy as the one in Ashburn.
Here, by the way, are the last 10 backs who racked up 200 yards from scrimmage in a game and scored a TD both rushing and receiving. As you’ll see, there are some fairly recognizable names on the list:
● 2011 – Arian Foster, Texans vs. Titans: 234 yards (115 rushing, 119 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
● 2010 – Ray Rice, Ravens vs. Saints: 233 yards (153 rushing, 80 receiving), 2 TD (1/1).
● 2010 – Darren McFadden, Raiders vs. Jaguars: 209 yards (123 rushing, 86 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
● 2010 – Jahvid Best, Lions vs. Eagles: 232 yards (78 rushing, 154 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
● 2008 – Brian Westbrook, Eagles vs. Giants: 203 yards (131 rushing, 72 receiving), 2 TD (1/1).
● 2007 – Ronnie Brown, Dolphins vs. Jets: 211 yards (112 rushing, 99 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
● 2007 – Brian Westbrook, Eagles vs. Lions: 221 yards (110 rushing, 111 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
● 2006 – LaDainian Tomlinson, Chargers vs. Rams: 240 yards (183 rushing, 57 receiving), 3 TD (2/1).
Other backs who have done it since 2000: Shaun Alexander (twice), Curtis Martin, Ahman Green, Clinton Portis, Priest Holmes (4 times), Marshall Faulk (twice), Corey Dillon, Fred Taylor. (Note: Westbrook accomplished the feat a third time in 2005.)
By the way, the last Redskins back to have a 200-1-1 game was Kelvin Bryant against the Cowboys in 1988. Bryant totaled exactly 200 yards from scrimmage (118 rushing, 82 receiving) and scored three touchdowns (one rushing, two receiving) in a 35-17 Washington win.
Postscript: Guess the verdict is already in on Choice. The Redskins released him Tuesday and elevated rookie running back Evan Royster from the practice squad. Smith, meanwhile, was still vertical at last report – and getting ready for the Lions’ Turkey Day clash with the unbeaten Packers.