Washington’s Rob Kelley reported to training camp lighter, faster, and determined to fight off rookie Derrius Guice for the starting running back job. He worked hard on his pass-catching and special teams play to become a bigger contributor.
Guice looked like he had the inside edge, as did Samaje Perrine last season. But Kelley kept plugging along, trying to make roster decisions as difficult as possible.
When both Guice and Perrine wound up injured, it looked like Kelley would win the starting nod by default. Orleans Darkwa and Jamaal Charles worked out and left unsigned.
Then Adrian Peterson showed up.
Jay Gruden couldn’t hide his man-crush. Peterson had a contract before he left the field. Gruden smiled broadly when he described to reporters what a physical specimen Peterson is. A few days later, “AP” hit the field for a preseason game. He looked good. Gruden named him the Week 1 starter soon after.
Adrian Peterson showed up in better shape than the others brought in to work out. According to Gruden, Darkwa and Charles were winded after drills, whereas Peterson never looked tired.
The future Hall of Famer is within sight of several milestones he would like to achieve in Week 1 against Arizona. With 37 yards, he could crack the top-ten rushing yardage list. His next touchdown will be his 100th.
The stint with Arizona followed four inexplicable weeks with the New Orleans Saints. New Orleans had little need for Peterson and the feeling was mutual.
When he was traded to the Cardinals, Peterson exploded in his Week 6 debut for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Then he had a bad week with 21 yards on 11 carries. After a bye, he ran for 159 yards. Then, he had two more bad weeks. He had a shot at another 100-yard game in Week 15 before he left with a season-ending injury.
NFL Fantasy owners decided Peterson needed two weeks to rest between starts to have any NFL fantasy value.
Peterson has been named the Week 1 starter. Washington says they will probably dress only three running backs, with third-down back Chris Thompson a sure thing and Kelley most likely rounding out the trio.
Jay Gruden remains enamored of his veteran pick-up. The job is Peterson’s to lose. Thompson’s third-down role matches well with Peterson’s weak pass-catching ability.
In Peterson’s two big games with Arizona, he was fed the ball 26 and 39 times. Washington probably won’t need to give him that big a workload. The Redskins pass the ball a lot and Thompson will take over in obvious passing and third-down situations. They should pace the aging veteran better than Bruce Arians did with the Cardinals.
Washington also has a superior offensive line than either the Cardinals or last season’s Saints. Arizona was decimated by injuries, using 14 different player combinations in 16 games. The 2018 Redskins’ line is ranked as the 12th best in the NFL.
Peterson noticed the difference already. “I can be more patient,” he said, “because I can trust the linemen to pick up their assignments.”
Between a better-paced usage pattern and keeping in shape while waiting for this opportunity, can we trust that Peterson will be a more consistent rusher in 2018? There is no answer yet. We’ll have to watch him.
Peterson keeps mentioning his goal of being a top-ten rusher and grabbing 100 touchdowns. What happens after that? Is he motivated to keep up the grind for 17 weeks?
In shape or not, he has a lot of miles on him. Can Peterson remain healthy? Kelley might still get his shot in 2018.
Adrian Peterson is a solid veteran runner who is motivated to do well in front of the Arizona fans. Even if he needs weeks to recover between starts, resting him for the last game of the preseason has him on schedule for another big game.
Enthusiasm and adrenaline work well for Peterson in Week 1. We’ll see what happens later in the season, but if Adrian Peterson is on your roster now, you must start him against Arizona Sunday.