Coach Jay Gruden said Monday that running back Derrius Guice — a second-round draft pick in 2018 who has yet to play a regular season game — could have an even larger role than expected in the Washington Redskins’ offense.
Several offensive mainstays were released Saturday, including running back Samaje Perine, known to be a favorite of Gruden’s, and the coach said the presence of Guice was the biggest factor.
“It’s not so much about Samaje as it is about Derrius Guice, how much faith we have in him to carry the ball,” Gruden said. “We drafted him for a reason. We feel like he can be a first-, second- and even third-down back if needed. The offense, carries-wise, will probably go through him, pretty much.”
Josh Doctson also was cut Saturday as the Redskins decided to go younger at wide receiver. Gruden called the departures of Doctson and Perine “a shame,” but Doctson quickly landed a job, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who reported Monday that Doctson was set to join the Minnesota Vikings. That reunites the 2016 first-round draft pick with former Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
Gruden’s evaluation of Guice was the biggest clue yet as to what the running game might look like. The question of how snaps will be allocated has yet to get a firm answer, although running backs coach Randy Jordan this summer predicted a 60-40 split one way or another between Guice and Adrian Peterson. Neither seemed to be the clear lead back in practice.
The Redskins want to run the ball and play great defense, so there will be plenty of carries to spread around in the season opener Sunday at the Philadelphia Eagles. Gruden’s statement seemed to hint that Guice could be the focal point with Peterson in a backup role. Peterson ran for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns in 2018 while Guice was sidelined with a torn ACL.
If Guice starts (and assuming Trent Williams continues his holdout), Washington will have new starters at quarterback, running back, X receiver, slot receiver, left tackle and left guard from the roster that began the 2018 season. The team committed to a youth movement at wide receiver with three rookies (Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims Jr.), second-year player Trey Quinn and Robert Davis, who has played one NFL game.
The decision on Perine also makes sense in that the Redskins would have three physical, early-down backs to go with the all-purpose Chris Thompson. Keeping Byron Marshall, then replacing him with former Eagles running back Wendell Smallwood, brings someone else in that third-down mold who can be active in the return game.
“They kind of couldn’t get rid of me, in a sense,” Smallwood said. “I’m excited to go play there. I’m excited to go whup up on old teammates. … The D-line, the front seven is going to be physical. It’s going to be a fistfight with those boys Sunday. I kind of let the guys know we’re going to have to be physical.”
The Redskins are still in limbo when it comes to tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Fabian Moreau. Reed is in the concussion protocol, and Gruden was unsure about his availability against the Eagles. Gruden said the same about Moreau (ankle). Gruden pointed to Greg Stroman and rookie Jimmy Moreland as possible replacements for Moreau.
The team added former Eagles defensive lineman Treyvon Hester to take the 52nd spot on the roster Monday as insurance in case Caleb Brantley (foot) is unable to play Sunday. The Redskins filled out the last spot on their 53-man roster later Monday afternoon when they claimed linebacker Tanner Vallejo off waivers. The Bills spent a sixth-round pick on the Boise State product in 2017, and he played 15 games in Buffalo that year and 13 in Cleveland in 2018.