When Adrian Peterson heard the news Monday about the injuries that had hit the Redskins’ offensive line, he had one primary reaction.
“My friend, Maker’s Mark, we had a long night,” he said.
Right tackle Morgan Moses had a slightly different reaction.
“All I could think about was last year,” Moses said, referring to the onslaught of injuries the team accrued in 2017.
Both know the NFL is a next man up business, that injuries happen all the time and that backups must always be ready to take someone’s place. They also know that playing a game without three starting offensive linemen will be a significant challenge for a team still looking to find its offensive groove.
Entering this weekend’s matchup with Tampa Bay, the Redskins will be without left tackle Trent Williams (dislocated thumb), left guard Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL) and right guard Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral muscle). It's not ideal.
To fill the void, the team signed three offensive linemen on Monday, and mixing and matching has taken place throughout the practice week. For running back Adrian Peterson, the rotation and new names will be a challenge and also put a bigger burden on his shoulders – to transcend the inconsistencies of the offense running behind blockers playing in burgundy and gold for the first time in their careers.
“You just got to stay positive and keep pressing, it’s not the end of the world, it’s not the end of the season for us, guys will step up, we all have to perform better and that’s the mindset that I have,” Peterson said. “It’s not like last week, ‘Oh I’m not going to perform at a different level,’ but it’s just something different when you lose three starters, how your mindset kind of shifts, I just got to do more than I was doing before.”
Peterson has rushed for 604 yards, fifth-best in the league, and his presence has been felt mightily in the five games the Redskins have won thus far. Learning tendencies of his linemen has taken time, and Peterson will tell you that he’s had to stay patient and trust his blockers up front, knowing where they would be plugging holes to cut back properly.
That kind of trust won’t exist with new parts shuffling into the rotation this week. Thursday and Friday practices are where Peterson will begin to insert himself into discussing expectations and tendencies, but a few days of information gathering isn’t a lot.
"He just goes through his reads like he normally would. It doesn’t matter who's blocking for him – at guard, center, tackle, tight end, fullback – if we had one – or receiver,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “He's just going to go through his progressions and make his cuts and do what he does. It doesn’t matter."
“I’ll be able to say little things that I might see, that I might notice, that I would like them to do differently or that might work better,” Peterson said. “Right now just getting to know those guys, talking to them, but most importantly just going out playing hard fast is what we really need right now early.”
Peterson is confident in offensive line coach Bill Callahan’s ability to get everyone up to speed. The challenge for the new guys is more than just run-blocking responsibilities. They must respond to the right terminology and line checks and quarterback Alex Smith’s cadence, vital to eliminate penalties that proved costly last week.
Still, even if things go exceedingly well in practice, nothing mimics a game situation. Peterson is well aware and hopes those stepping into the fire on Sunday will take advantage of their chance.
“The play looks great in practice when you draw it up, but when you got guys coming at 100 miles per hour, things change,” Peterson said. “But we have confidence in the guys that we have and the guys that were here before these guys. The new guys just got to step up. And it’s a great opportunity to come in, mid-season fresh and have those type of opportunities.”