Adrian Peterson has done his best to try and take Dwayne Haskins under his wing.
Since Haskins was drafted with the 15th overall pick in April, Peterson has tried to give him as much sound advice as a 34-year-old NFL veteran can to a 22-year-old rookie. When Haskins made his first-career start against the Buffalo Bills, he told Haskins to “take ownership of this” before the game.
Two weeks later, Haskins will be making his first-career home start against the New York Jets, and Peterson will try to help him by being a safety valve the young quarterback can rely upon.
That is going to be a tough challenge against the Jets’ run defense, though.
“We want to be able to establish the run,” Peterson said. “That’s what gets us going, offensively. It’s going to be a challenge for us, because when watch them on film, they’re playing good. So we just have to do our jobs.”
The Jets have not lived up to their preseason expectations. After hiring head coach Adam Gase and trading for running back Le’Veon Bell, ESPN.com predicted the Jets to finish 8-8, while CBSsports.com had them going 7-9.
Now past the halfway mark in the 2019 season, those estimations are beginning to appear less likely each week. The Jets lost their first four games, and after upsetting the Dallas Cowboys in Week 5, they lost three more to the Patriots, Jaguars and Dolphins.
While the Jets have fallen short in some areas -- primarily on offense -- the same cannot be said of their rushing defense. They rank second in the NFL with just 81.9 rushing yards allowed.
“They are good up front,” said interim head coach Bill Callahan. “Defensively, just looking at what they did against NFC East opponents, Dallas had a little over 100 [rushing yards] and [Giants running back Saquon] Barkley only had one yard. It was amazing how they shut down the Giants’ running attack, and they’ve been doing it all year long.”
In addition to Barkley, the Jets’ defensive front has held its own against some of the most well-known running backs. They stuffed Buffalo Bills running back Frank Gore for 20 yards, held Nick Chubb and the Cleveland Browns to 70 yards on the ground and limited Leonard Fournette to 76 yards.
Those performances have helped the Jets hold offenses to just 3.01 yards per carry, according to Football Outsiders, and they tackle running backs either at or behind the line of scrimmage a league-best 34% of the time.
Peterson, who has had a resurgence since Callahan became the interim head coach, will likely be the primary running back against the Jets’ defensive front, but he has confidence in himself and the rest of the players in his position group to perform.
“As long as we keep our eyes open, we’re all capable of holding it down,” Peterson said.
Offensive lineman Morgan Moses said Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams likes to change schemes for every team, which means the offense needs to be prepared for anything.
“It’s pretty well-documented on film that they’ll change up week-to-week, so preparing for not only what you see on film from the past week, but also trying to anticipate what you’ll see the following week gives you a full agenda to work on," Callahan said.
Peterson averages 4.3 yards per carry through nine games, but the Redskins will also have running back Derrius Guice back for the first time since Week 1. With Chris Thompson still being week-to-week with a toe injury, according to Callahan, and still uncertain as to when he will return, having Guice back should give more versatility to the team’s ground game.
“I think they’ll complement each other well,” Callahan said. “There’s a lot of options in that respect, but I also think they’ve got a good rapport with one another. … It’ll be interesting to see how their roles play out on Sunday.”
The Jets have confounded a number of running backs this season, but having Guice and Peterson in the same backfield for the first time might hold the answer to a breakthrough.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Peterson said. “Just having a guy when you come out, you can relax and know [he’s] going to get the job done. It’s going to be interesting to see how things go.”