There’s a saying in analytics. That running backs don’t matter.
The statement does not work as a universal truth. There are times when teams win because of their running back. Adrian Peterson is a big reason the Washington Redskins even sniffed .500 last season.
But the statement isn’t completely literal. It’s a quaint paraphrase job of the data-backed revelation that teams who build their offenses around the run game are inherently less efficient than teams who build their offenses around the passing game. The versatility of the passing game, especially with play action, is the way of the future, and some teams haven’t caught on yet. The Redskins, at the very least, postponed their renaissance in 2018.
This year, however, there’s a chance that the Redskins cater more to the modern analytical standards. They have a new quarterback in Dwayne Haskins who should be able to, in the long run, glean more from the offense with his talent and smarts. They have Kevin O’Connell, a young offensive mind who has, in limited press conferences, said promising things concerning his offensive philosophy.
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If the Redskins are truly moving forward on this developmental curve, then the statement “Running backs don’t matter” will ring louder in Ashburn. But while running backs are more replaceable and not as important in the modern offense, the right running back can be a versatile weapon out of the backfield. Derrius Guice had the potential to be that weapon for Washington last year, and this year, he’s fighting to get back.
Running backs are weapons, all the same. Here’s the training camp profile for the Redskins’ most explosive running back, and one of their most explosive weapons.