Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan has been around football his whole life, playing in the NFL from 1993 to 2002 and coaching between the pros and college since 2003. Yet he said this year’s group of rushers is the best he’s worked with.
The Redskins leaned on their run game last season, and head coach Jay Gruden is again making his team’s ground game a priority. Adrian Peterson is back, while 2018 second-round pick Derrius Guice, who tore his ACL last year, is expected to be healthy by training camp and in competition for the bulk of the carries.
“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.”
Entering last year’s training camp, Guice was expected to be a key contributor after starring at LSU. When he tore his ACL in August, Washington signed Peterson, a three-time NFL rushing leader.
Both players will be in the fold during 2019, as will all-purpose back Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine, who garnered praise from Gruden on multiple occasions this offseason.
The Redskins also bolstered the running backs room in this year’s draft, selecting 2017 Heisman Trophy runner-up Bryce Love in the fourth round. He's still working his way back from a torn ACL suffered in December.
“You want those guys that are really, really excited and take that to heart, like, ‘Hey, I want to be the guy,’” Jordan said.
Peterson ran for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns last season, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth time in his career and becoming the oldest 1,000-yard rusher since Redskins great John Riggins in 1984. Entering his 13th NFL season, Peterson is still aiming for the starting job. And like every year, his goal is to rush for 2,000 yards, a milestone he accomplished during his MVP season in 2012.
Jordan said he’d prefer to split carries between Peterson and Guice to take advantage of their different skill sets. Guice ran for 3,074 yards and 29 touchdowns over three years at LSU and showcased his savvy for the Redskins before getting hurt. During offseason workouts at Redskins Park this past month, Guice performed drills off to the side with the other injured players.
“You have a guy like Guice, and from what I’ve seen in the preseason before he got hurt -- he’s good,” Peterson said. “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.”
With the Redskins in the midst of a quarterback competition between rookie Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell believes a steady run game would ease the signal-callers’ transitions.
When the Redskins’ run game was effective last season, Gruden said Washington’s offense performed its best, and he’s hoping for more consistency this fall.
"Hopefully we have balance. That's always the key,” Gruden said. “When we were effective last year with Alex [Smith] early in the season, it's because we were moving the football, making our third downs, mixing in the run, pass and play action. That's when most offenses are at their best.”