With training camp set to begin on July 25, Redskins.com will be previewing the current state of the roster, continuing with the team’s running backs.
Veteran Adrian Peterson is back after leading the team in rushing yards a year ago, while sophomore Derrius Guice is working his way back to full health after tearing his ACL last preseason.
-- Kapri Bibbs
-- Rob Kelley
-- Bryce Love
CURRENT STATE OF THE UNIT:
Entering last year’s training camp, Guice was slated to take a chunk of the Redskins’ carries after the team selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. But then Guice tore his ACL during a preseason game, leading the Redskins to sign Peterson. After Peterson's impressive season, the Redskins re-signed him to a multi-year deal in March.
If Guice is healthy, the Redskins will have two potential workhorses at a position that also includes a proven pass-catching threat (Chris Thompson), a downhill bruiser (Samaje Perine) and a Heisman Trophy runner-up (fourth-round pick Bryce Love).
Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan said this year’s running backs group is the most talented he’s been around.
“It’s upped our game, and those guys get a little bit upset when all of the sudden a guy gets a couple of reps and they’re looking at me like, ‘Coach, when is my turn?,” Jordan said. “It makes it easy to coach when you’ve got a good room like that.”
Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns last season while the Redskins leaned on their run game. He surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the eighth time in his career, becoming the oldest Redskin to reach that milestone since John Riggins in 1984.
Peterson’s goals in his 13th NFL season are to win the starting job and rush for 2,000 yards, a feat he accomplished during his MVP season in 2012. Coach Jay Gruden hopes the 34-year-old will be more familiar with the Redskins’ system after playing in it for a year.
"No doubt he is comfortable, and he's in great shape again,” Gruden said during minicamp. “The big thing is that he looks even healthier, which is important. Last year, towards the end, he was playing with quite a few different nagging-type injuries and he fought through, which he always will.”
Jordan expects Peterson to split carries with Guice, who ran for 3,074 yards and 29 touchdowns over three years at LSU. He impressed coaches last offseason before his injury but is reportedly questionable for the start of training camp.
“You have a guy like Guice, and from what I’ve seen in the preseason before he got hurt -- he’s good,” Peterson said during minicamp. “Obviously, we know what he did in college, so as long as we’re both being productive, I’m all open arms for whatever they decide to do. I’m all about winning and helping these young guys and making these young guys better players.”
Thompson, who was the Redskins’ third-down running back last year, will also receive opportunities as an all-purpose back. Thompson notched 178 rushing yards and 268 receiving yards with a touchdown last season. He’s visited Peterson in Houston over the offseason to train.
Elsewhere, Perine has impressed Gruden this offseason, taking the majority of the team’s reps during voluntary practices. Perine was active in five games last season, receiving eight carries for 32 yards.
“Obviously, running the football is the first and foremost priority here,” Gruden said during minicamp. “But sometimes mixing in a quick pass on first down to get a positive gain is also a great option with the weapons that we have."
The Redskins added running back depth through the draft with the selection of Love out of Stanford. Love rushed for 3,865 yards and 30 touchdowns during his college career, but he’s working back from a torn ACL he suffered in December.
Other backfield options include Byron Marshall, who has 31 carries for 105 yards over his three-year NFL career, and undrafted rookie Craig Reynolds, whose rookie minicamp performance in May resulted in a spot on the team's 90-man roster.
The Redskins will also enter training camp with fullback Elijah Wellman, who signed a reserve/futures contract in December.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Guice shined at LSU but has yet to complete a full training camp in the NFL.
He didn’t participate in the Redskins’ minicamp and OTAs this year, instead performing drills off to the side with other injured players. His emergence, though, could give the Redskins a dynamic running back duo between him and Peterson.
If Guice is healthy, the coaching staff will need to decide how carries are split between Guice and Peterson, who showed last season he can still produce. Training camp and the preseason will play a factor in who takes over the starting job.
“They all have different sets of skills,” Jordan said during minicamp. “My job as a coach is to try to get the best out of them each and every time they touch the field. I say, ‘Listen, it’s a privilege for your number to be called because we’ve got a lot of people in this room that their number can be called from receivers to running backs, so when you get that opportunity, make it count.’”