Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Going to Make the Cut

Our future every down back

I do not think this is hyperbole. Skills wise, Marcus Mason can handle the load. Durability, protecting the ball (who expected Ladell Betts to fumble six times in 298 touches in 2006, including some really bad times to drop the ball), we have no idea, the drop in the Bills preseason game was no more indicative of his ball handling skills than his 25 yard kickoff return later in the same game, or his 178 yards rushing in two games with no fumbles is indicative that he won't cough it up in a live game.

After winning over Joe Gibbs last season and making the regular season roster only to be cut and reassigned to the practice squad, Marcus is winning over new Redskins coach Jim Zorn. Coach Zorn now must decide whether to carry four tailback. Or not.

Because Rock Cartwright is not really a tailback. He is a tailback in the same way Brian Mitchell was a tailback, after flirting as a feature back in 1993 and 1994 it became clear that Brian did not have the bulk or slipperiness to get between the tackles and he was relegated to third down pass catching back with some occasional misdirection carries.

No Redskins fans, Rock Cartwright is a kick returner who can serve as an emergency tailback. If we ever were to see Rock in on every down that means Ladell and Clinton Portis are not available. If that were the case the Redskins would promote a Marcus Mason or go out to the street and sign a Derrick Blaylock or some other retread to get them through the season.

So the question is not whether Jim Zorn is willing to make sacrifices to carry four tailbacks, but rather whether Jim Zorn is willing to carry a dedicated kick returner and three tailbacks. This distinction still puts Marcus on the bubble, it is a slightly different context.

Marcus is a great runner with a style reminiscent to me of Emmitt Smith, low to the ground, accelerates through cuts, slippery and hard to get an angle on. Give him the ball and let's see what happens.

Curly R has been a big supporter of Marcus Mason since the Ravens scrimmage in August of last season's training camp, see also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, all from last preseason, and any of the training camp dailies from this preseason. I have been pleased to see Rich Tandler come around, a little on Marcus.

Yes the team is hemmed in by Clinton's and Ladell's sizable contracts. That could change, that's what the capologists do.

Marcus Mason in last Saturday's preseason game against the Buffalo Bills: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP from here.