The Redskins were the beneficiaries when LSU star running back Derrius Guice unexpectedly fell to them late in the second round of the 2018 draft. As a runner, Guice has the talent to have been a top-15 pick and provides Washington with a lead running back to carry the load on first and second down.
He also projects as a good fit in the Redskins’ scheme, and should pair well with receiving back Chris Thompson, who was enjoying a breakout year in 2017 before a season-ending injury. Here is a look at how Guice should fit in Washington’s offense.
At LSU, Guice played in every running scheme that he’s likely to see in the NFL. One of the foundational runs of the Redskins’ offense is the wide zone, at which Guice excels.
This is a tough read for Guice, but one he reacts to well. His first read is the defensive end. That defender tells Guice if he should bounce outside or progress to his second read inside. As he approaches the line of scrimmage, the defensive end is blocked by a combination of the right tackle and right guard, driving him outside and telling Guice to progress inside to his second read. However, as he looks back inside, the right guard peels off to pick up a linebacker while the right tackle falls off the defensive end to pick up a corner, leaving the defensive end unblocked in the hole. Guice calmly adjusts his path back outside, avoiding the unblocked defensive end and bursting into the secondary for a 15-yard gain.
The complementary play to the wide zone is the tight zone, or inside zone. Guice is equally adept at running that.
For tight zone, the reads for the running back shift inside. Instead of reading the defensive end, the back now reads the first defensive tackle on the play-side of the center, before working back to the first defensive tackle on the backside of the center. The play-side defensive tackle gets combination blocked and washed out, telling Guice to cut his run back. The center manages to get himself play-side of the nose tackle, which should tell Guice to work in the gap between the left guard and center.
However, a linebacker shoots his gap on the back side and threatens to make a play on Guice in the backfield. Guice spots him coming even from the backside of the play and makes a terrific lateral cut to avoid him before adjusting his path and gain positive yards.
These are tough reads and adjustments that Guice makes look easy. He’s a natural zone runner, which should be the base run scheme for Redskins Coach Jay Gruden’s offense this year. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan has years of experience with the zone scheme, and his new assistant offensive line coach, Phil Rauscher, spent the last three years with the Denver Broncos, where he coached under Gary Kubiak, who exclusively uses a zone-blocking run game.
But this isn’t to say Guice can’t run more than just the zone scheme. He’s perfectly capable in other schemes, too.
Here, LSU attempts a gap scheme play, with the tight end trapping the defensive tackle, allowing the right tackle to work up to the linebacker on the second level. As Guice secures the handoff, the run appears to be an easy one, with the hole developing right where it was intended. However, the tight end doesn’t take the best angle, allowing the defensive tackle to work across his face and into the running lane. Guice makes yet another smooth adjustment, bouncing his run outside of the defensive tackle before working to get back on track, running over another defensive tackle in the process.
The physical and violent nature Guice runs with is evident on almost every play. Rarely is he tackled by the first defender, and it often takes multiple defenders to bring him down.
This time, LSU appear to run a duo play, where the two defensive tackles are double-teamed and driven back up to the linebackers. The middle linebacker, number 33, is the main read for Guice. He works to the front side of the play, forcing the left tackle to peel off and block him earlier than anticipated. That would typically tell Guice to cut to his left and work that way, but the defensive end on that side bursts freely into the backfield, forcing Guice to stay on his original path. Guice fights through initial contact from that unblocked defensive end as he bursts through the hole and regains balance before lowering his shoulder into the safety. Guice refuses to go down, and it takes a number of defenders to drive him toward the sideline and out of bounds.
Gruden has already stated he expects Guice to be the team’s “banger” on first and second down, while Chris Thompson will still remain in his third-down back role and take over in obvious passing situations. But could Guice and Thompson both see the field at the same time? Teams like the Panthers and the Saints last year found ways to get two good backs on the field together.
The most obvious way to get both Guice and Thompson on the field at the same time is using the triple option. Here, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has the option to hand the ball off the Jonathan Stewart inside, keep it himself or pitch it to Christian McCaffrey. The read tells him to keep the ball initially and then pitch it to McCaffrey, who uses his speed to get to the edge and pick up 15 yards on the play. This could be an option for Washington this season, particularly given the mobility of new starting quarterback Alex Smith.
Another option could be to line up one of the two, likely Thompson, as a slot receiver.
On this play, the Saints line up running back Alvin Kamara as a receiver in a bunch set to the right while Mark Ingram joins Drew Brees in the backfield. From there, the Saints run the most common run-pass option play in the NFL — tight zone combined with a bubble screen. Brees can either hand it off to Ingram or throw the bubble screen to Kamara. The box count tells Brees to hand off inside on this occasion.
With Smith’s mobility and experience with run-pass options in Kansas City last year, these are both two types of plays he could run effectively that allow the Redskins to get both Guice and Thompson on the field at the same time and get the most out of their respective skill sets.
Overall, Guice is a player who should have an immediate impact on the Redskins’ offense. He is scheme-diverse, which fits Gruden’s desire to be adaptable in the run game, and runs with a physical play style that will help him pick up extra yards while wearing down defenses. He should bring a balance to the offense that Gruden has rarely been able to achieve during his time in Washington.
Read more on the Redskins: