Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the news that the Redskins plan to sign Adrian Peterson.
The Redskins entered preseason with a logjam at running back, but after just two games they found themselves needing to look into the free agent market. Rookie Derrius Guice was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first preseason game, while Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine both exited from the second preseason game injured.
That left the Redskins with just Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson, and over the past few days, Washington hosted a number of free agent backs, including Jamaal Charles, Orleans Darkwa and former NFL MVP Adrian Peterson.
The team made the decision to sign Peterson after he worked out for the team Monday. Let’s take a look at how he fits with the team.
While he’s now 33, Peterson is still a phenomenal athlete with the ability to run away from defenders. He appears to have lost some of the explosiveness he once had, and isn’t able to consistently run over defenders like he once was, but he’s still someone that can occasionally create his own yards when there appears to be nothing there. That’s something the Redskins have lacked at running back recently.
Peterson started his season with the Saints last year, but saw little playing time behind the duo of Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara and was traded to the Cardinals. He was a better fit with Arizona, which was willing to commit a certain number of carries to Peterson after the season-ending injury to star running back David Johnson and catered its scheme to Peterson’s strengths. He is at his best in a gap scheme, where he can set up blocks by drawing defenders inside before bouncing his run to the edge.
The Redskins do run some plays that are similar to this, like duo or iso, but not as regularly as they run inside and outside zone plays, schemes that don’t fit what Peterson does best. He also is most effective with the quarterback under center, as opposed to the shotgun, which causes the running back’s tracks and angles of vision to change significantly — that’s never been something Peterson has been particularly strong at. The Redskins are expected to use plenty of the shotgun formation with Alex Smith at quarterback and might run some read-option plays out of it to take advantage of Smith’s athleticism.
All that makes Peterson a questionable fit in the Redskins’ offense, and when you factor in his limitations in the passing game — he has just 46 catches in 30 games over the last five seasons — it doesn’t seem like Peterson and Washington are a great match. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the group of Kelley, Thompson and Bibbs, particularly if and when Perine and Marshall return from injury.
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