Redskins running back depth is the best it’s been in some time

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 14: Running Back Adrian Peterson #26 of the Washington Redskins takes the field prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at FedExField on October 14, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)
LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 14: Running Back Adrian Peterson #26 of the Washington Redskins takes the field prior to the game against the Carolina Panthers at FedExField on October 14, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images) /

The Washington Redskins have had trouble finding effective running back depth since the departure of Alfred Morris. For 2019, it looks like they have the most depth they’ve had in recent years.

For the better part of the last five years, the Redskins have had an issue at the running back position. After Alfred Morris left the team in free agency following the 2015 campaign, the team was unable to find a truly solid starting option. Matt Jones had issues fumbling the ball and was eventually cut. Rob Kelley couldn’t stay healthy and lacked game-breaking ability. And over the course of the last two years, the team had issues staying healthy at the position.

But heading into 2019, things are looking up for the once-embattled group.

As of right now, the Redskins have seven running backs on their roster excluding fullback/H-back Elijah Wellman. Of the seven on the roster, five have a legitimate case to be a part of a rotation in the NFL, and you could make the case for a few of them as starters.

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The most notable of the potential starters are Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson. Guice, of course, has yet to play a down in the NFL after suffering a torn ACL during the preseason. The second-round pick in 2018 has a ton of potential and was regarded as one of the top backs in the ’18 class. He fell to the Redskins’ pick in Round 2, and they were lucky to retain his services. Provided that he can stay healthy, he could emerge as a more-than-solid starter for the Redskins.

Meanwhile, much has been made of the 34-year-old Peterson’s effort last year, as he went for over 1,000 yards and showed his elusiveness in his first year with the ‘Skins. He defied expectations and the future Hall of Fame player seems to still have juice left, something that few thought was possible after an awful 2017 campaign. Now, he will get a chance to continue to play a role and could split carries with Guice early in the season as Guice gets acclimated to the NFL.

Elsewhere on the roster, Bryce Love could have a chance to become a lead-back at some point in his career. While his final season at Stanford was good, a torn ACL caused him to drop to the fourth round of the draft. However, the previous year he had been a 2,000-yard runner and potential first-round option. He has true three-down ability and should be a good pass catcher at the next level. He may not be healthy enough to start the season on the active roster, but in late 2019 and moving forward, Love could end up emerging as a quality piece in the ‘Skins’ backfield. So, he can’t be discounted as a future starter and, if not, an excellent part of a one-two punch.

Aside from those three players, Washington also has Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine. Though Thompson has had issues with health (a common theme among running backs on this roster) he is one of the most dynamic receiving backs in the league. He simply makes plays with the ball in his hands and that’s how he has averaged 6.4 yards per touch during his NFL career, a great number for a running back.

Perine hasn’t been given enough of a chance at the NFL level to prove himself, but he did well in 2017 running behind a banged-up offensive line. Perine has good one-cut ability and the strength to be a powerful downhill runner. Jay Gruden hinted at getting Perine some more work at the offseason owners meetings, so perhaps he will showcase his potential in the preseason and show the team what they missed after they failed to give him a chance to prove himself last year.

And for those that want to complain about his fumbling numbers, those issues are overblown. Perine has only fumbled twice on 208 NFL touches. While he may have cost the team with those drops, he is only slightly below average in the fumble rate category (104 touches per fumble, 125 is about league average). Comparatively, Peterson has fumbled every 68.8 touches during his career, albeit in a much larger sample size. Either way, the point stands that Perine has untapped potential and could play a role in a solid backfield.

With these five players at running back, and Byron Marshall and Russell Hansbrough to close out the depth chart, the Redskins seem better equipped to have talent at the position than they have in years past. Obviously, they won’t want to see any of their players get banged up again, but the fact is that their backs have been injury prone in recent seasons. It’s comforting to know that their depth is looking pretty solid for the first time in quite a while.

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Perhaps the running game will be able to carry the offense this year. That’s something they will need to see happen if their offense is going to find some success.