After stealing him in the second round, watching him play an active part in the community, then show signs of promise in training camp, the news that rookie running back Derrius Guice had torn his ACL during the first preseason game of the year was particularly devastating.
The Redskins recovered by signing Adrian Peterson, who proved he was worth the investment, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and breaking countless records along the way. Outside of AP, the group struggled with other injuries and had a series of rotations throughout the year.
Here’s a look at the unit’s season:
Review Of The Unit:
It seemed like déjà vu all over again for the Redskins when Guice was diagnosed with a torn ACL just a day after falling hard to the turf in New England and coming up in pain. In fact, it sort of was, as the Redskins lost 24 players to the Injured Reserve list in 2018.
The second-round pick was expected to jolt the Redskins run game, which hadn’t had a prolific season in some time, and spark competition with Rob Kelley, who had assumed the starting role last season after a breakout rookie campaign.
Instead the Redskins had to pivot. After a couple of workouts with veterans Jamaal Charles and Orleans Darkwa, Washington brought in Adrian Peterson, who had an uneven 2017 splitting time in New Orleans and Arizona. Once the workout was finished, everyone on hand was blown away and Peterson quickly signed to reteam with Trent Williams and revitalize his career.
He did just that, scoring his 100th career touchdown during the season opener against the Cardinals and setting the tone for a year of milestones. In total, Peterson finished with 1,042 rushing yards on 251 attempts, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and scored seven touchdowns. He also added 20 catches for 208 yards and a touchdown.
Some notable markers this year included Peterson passing Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson for eighth on the all-time list in career rushing yards. He also became the 13th player in NFL history to record two or more 1,000 rushing yard seasons between the ages of 30 and 39 years old.
“Being able to coach a guy like Adrian Peterson – a Hall of Fame type guy – was actually one of the highpoints in my career personally,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “There are a lot to things to go back and look at from each individual player, what they did well, how they developed as players and as people, which was kind of fun to watch.”
As for the rest of the group, Kelley, who received limited snaps, hit the Injured Reserve list early on with a toe injury. The Redskins also struggled with finding a consistent third down back. Chris Thompson took most of training camp and the preseason off as he recovered from the broken leg he suffered against the New Orleans Saints in what was turning into a prolific year for him.
Thompson ended up missing six games, primarily because of multiple rib injuries, rushing for just 178 yards while catching 41 passes for 268 yards.
His absence allowed for other backs to step up, primarily Kapri Bibbs, who played in 10 games this season and rushed for 101 yards on 20 attempts and caught 13 passes for 102 yards, finding the end zone four times. As Byron Marshall, a similar third down back, rejoined the team from Injured Reserve, Bibbs lost some playing time and was ultimately waived near the end of the season.
In six games though, Marshall only received three carries for nine yards and caught four passes for 30 yards. Samaje Perine, often a healthy scratch for games, played sparingly and near the ends of blowouts. His 2018 finished with 32 rushing yards on eight attempts in five games.
With Derrius Guice rehabbing and on track to return healthy next season, the Redskins could have formidable trio of running backs in 2019 should injuries not rear their ugly head again.
The real question will be whether the Redskins decide to re-sign Peterson, who aside from his performance on the field, became a strong leader in the locker room and valuable presence amongst the running backs unit.
“That wouldn't be a bad thing to have,” Gruden said. “You still have Bryon Marshall too and Samaje Perine, so I think the stable of backs are very interesting here once everybody is healthy. I would love to see Adrian come back healthy. He was banged up the whole second half of the season and he played through it and still played pretty good. That is something that we'll have to talk about. Obviously Adrian is a free agent and he is probably going to look at his options also, but all good players."
Peterson, who was asked repeatedly near the end of the season whether he'd like to return, provided some declarative answers. But you can be certain there will be a market for him the way he ran the ball and stayed healthy throughout the year.
“Yeah I would definitely love to come back here and finish off on a better note,” Peterson said. “I feel like we have a good group of guys here, all the adversity we faced this year and the guys have responded, continue to come to work and stay focused. Shows a lot about this team, and this locker room and the coaches as well. That’s something I would love to be a part of.”
Asked whether a duo of him and Guice could work, Peterson seemed optimistic.
“I feel like it can work,” Peterson said. “It’s always good to have a couple backs in there with different styles. CT, he’s more of a third down back, that he can run the ball as well. Having two guys that can pound the ball, no plays off type-mentality. If it’s that type of game plan, why not?”