SEABROOK – It is amazing how life works out sometimes. Future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson went from being forced out of New Orleans and Arizona during the 2017-2018 season and was not courted until one team gave him a second chance at being AD “All day.”
The Washington Redskins believed that 2018 second round NFL draft pick Derrius Guice (LSU) was the future as the franchise’s No. 1 tailback, but it only took six preseason snaps to alter those ambitions for the upcoming season.
Guice suffered a season-ending ACL injury that prompted the Redskins to sign the 33-year-old tailback, but in Peterson’s mind, the future is now.
The six-foot-one, 220 pound veteran back found the fountain of youth and quenched his thirst in Washington as a top ten running back surpassing two rookies in rushing yardage (Phillip Lindsay, Nick Chubb) in the No. 8 spot by exceeding 1,000 yards on the ground last season for the first time since 2015.
“We were fortunate to get a look at him, not fortunate to lose Derrius (Guice), but we’re fortunate that he was on the streets and he had a great workout – hats off to him for staying in great shape, really.
“A lot of guys can tank it and not workout, but he was in great physical condition and he showed it,” said Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden.
Peterson showed that he still had some more juice left in the tank averaging more than four yards per carry and he found the endzone eight times.
“He’s a great player, he’s a pro and we’re happy to have him,” Gruden said. “He fell into our lap at a critical time, we needed a player, and he was there for us. He is everything as advertised.”
The seven-time Pro Bowler showed signs that he could still come back to form as the former NFL MVP broke off a 90-yard touchdown run against the Philadelphia Eagles on Dec. 3, 2018, making it a career-long scamper for the all-pro running back.
“I mean, the guy’s incredible,” said Indianapolis Colts Head Coach and former University of Maryland standout quarterback Frank Reich. “Truly one of the greatest of all time (and he’s) just such an exciting and electric player. He still has that elusiveness and his inside running ability, the jump cut stuff that he’s always had. I mean, I just think this guy is one of the true all-time greats.”
The question is if Peterson either wants to come back as a possible reserve behind Guice or if Washington is willing to pay an aging tailback big money with very little cap space this year?
It would behoove the Redskins to strike a deal as insurance if Guice cannot play at a high level or if he suffers another devastating injury. Let us not forget that Washington has a small sample size of the former LSU Tiger’s ability in one preseason game.
The NFL is a different type of monster and the Redskins are currently banking on Guice to be the guy considering Chris Thompson is primarily used in passing downs and has not proven himself to be a tough runner between the tackles or stay healthy for an extended period of time.
Though Peterson showed glimpses, it would also be wishful thinking to think that he would be able to tout the ball 30 times a game and be as productive after all of the hits that he has taken during his career.
We also saw what happened in New Orleans when he was not the guy and I’m pretty sure that no one wants to see Peterson play second fiddle to an unproven rookie to end his illustrious career.
The hands of time are not being kind to Peterson, but even though those scenarios seem bleak, the bottom line is that in order for the Redskins to have some stability in the running game next year, I believe they need Peterson to lead the charge and to sprinkle in Guice with a running back by committee approach.
However, in order for it to work, Peterson cannot stalk Gruden down the sidelines as he did with New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton when he does not feel his usage rate is up to par for the future Hall of Famer’s standards.
“I think he enjoys not being pigeonholed in a role,” said Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. “I think that can happen to old guys (laugh). You get told what you can and can’t do. I think he can do about everything.”
Behind the consistent quarterback play of Smith and stout defense coupled by Peterson’s powerful rushing attack, the Redskins were 6-3 before the team was bitten by the injury bug.
If the Washington Redskins are smart, they will go with the proven guy in Peterson next year and let the chips fall where they may. If the team can stay healthy, the soon-to-be 34-year-old bruising back could provide the stability and consistency that Washington needs to make a playoff run, and if I were a betting man, I’d go all in re-signing the future Hall of Famer.
“I think running backs at that age in the history of the NFL haven’t had too much success, but he’s his own guy – he’s (Peterson) a different animal,” Gruden said.
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