"Open competition" looks like a ploy to wake up Clinton Portis

The arrival in Washington of running back Willie Parker, who has done the rags-to-riches-to-rags thing over the past six years, has prompted the scratching of heads throughout the District of Columbia and beyond.

With Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson already on the roster, why sign a guy who fell out of favor in Pittsburgh due in part to a recent propensity to fall down upon first contact?  The word on Parker is that he lost his will to run between the tackles, that he always looks to bounce outside, and that opposing defenses have figured it out.

Still, the Redskins have decided to give him a shot. 

"It's flat-out an open competition," Parker's agent, Doug Hendrickson, tells the Washington Post. "That's what they told Willie.  It's a flat-out open competition as to who's going to play and who's going to start.  They said that's the way it's going to be."

That message to Parker could ultimately be aimed at getting Portis to take seriously his obligation to earn his pay in 2010, even though past salary-cap maneuverings have given him nearly $6.5 million in guaranteed base salary.  It also gives the Redskins some leverage in the event that Larry Johnson doesn't work out, or finds himself in trouble off the field, again.

That said, we're not prepared to write off Parker completely.  He could be perfectly suited to coach Mike Shanahan's one-cut, zone-blocking attack.  If Parker trusts that the hole will open and focuses first on hitting it and then hitting high gear, he could thrive.

As he told 106.7 The Fan on Friday, "I'm a zone runner.  I love the zone.  I love the scheme.  I love what [Shanahan] brings to the table."

Still, it'll be difficult if not impossible to justify carrying Portis, Johnson, and Parker on the active game day roster, given that the third man on the depth chart usually plays special teams. 

If, in the end, Parker is cut, he'll be better suited to land with a new team than if he continues to sit at home.  He'll be working out with a team throughout the offseason and, presumably, training camp and the preseason.  If/when he's cut, he'll walk out of the facility with plenty of knowledge regarding the offensive playbook and attack.

And that could make him more attractive to teams like the Giants and Eagles.

Click here to order Clinton Portis' proCane Rookie Card.

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