Keeping Tabs on Washington's Team

Tailback Swap Does Nothing For Running Game

Fans should treat the Johnson-Simpson swap like the unhelpful exchange it is

By Janie Campbell
|  Wednesday, Sep 22, 2010  |  Updated 5:16 PM EDT
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LANDOVER - SEPTEMBER 19: Larry Johnson #27 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Houston Texans at FedExField on September 19, 2010 in Landover, Maryland. The Texans defeated the Redskins in overtime 30-27. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

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Larry Johnson is the new In 'n Out burger. Just five carries and two yards into his late-career term with the Redskins, the one-time Pro Bowling running back has been swapped out for youngster Chad Simpson.

Must be to improve the stagnant running game, right? Not so fast: Simpson is a special teams guy who spent last year with the Colts serving as a return man, was waived, and failed to survive roster cuts in Buffalo.

(Chan Gailey survived roster cuts in Buffalo. Almost anyone can do it.)

And Johnson's agent suggested today that he was released because several of the Redskins' special teamers are injured, and Johnson doesn't do specials teams.

So Simpson's here for special duty.

Fine, but WHAT ABOUT THAT RUNNING GAME LARRY JOHNSON COULDN'T IMPROVE? (We yell because we care. Care never to see another 18 yards on 17 carries like the Redskins earned against Houston.)

Well, it's unclear. Jason Reid wonders if Simpson is meant to spring incumbant return specialist Devin Thomas to the stable of backs, but would Shanny even bother replacing Thomas' 28 yards per return (and total lack of role on offense) with Simpson, who's averaged 24 in his career? 

And why, when the Redskins could have promoted a practice squadder to special teams -- Ryan Torain comes to mind -- did they get Simpson instead? 

It's enough to make one's head spin, and this is one ride it's best not to board: ultimately, what Washington does in shufflling about two or three middling players to find the most useful mix isn't going to help the ground game much anyway.

Simpson might be a good stopgap during injury, but the Redskins would be better off using Johnson's spot to try fixing what ails their offense. Clinton Portis needs more effective backups -- undrafted third-stringer Keiland Williams is no more a solution than LJ ever was -- but even he's getting nowhere thanks to the Redskins' weak offensive line.

Special teams is important, sure, but it's hard to imagine the Redskins can't dig up a guy already on the roster who can handle kick coverage for a night. The Redskins, we've learned already, have at least one more pressing issue, and it hasn't been able to press at all.

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