The Washington Redskins didn’t use Adrian Peterson in their season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, they will have to use him after Derrius Guice’s injury.
Coming into the 2019 NFL season, there was a lot of hope surrounding the Washington Redskins running backs. Former second-round pick Derrius Guice was returning to the lineup after missing the previous season with a torn ACL. Adrian Peterson, a future Hall of Fame player, was set to back him up. And Chris Thompson, a dynamic receiving threat, was to be used as a passing back to take some pressure off that duo.
However, things didn’t work out as many had anticipated in the season opener. The Redskins and Jay Gruden surprisingly chose to list Peterson among the inactives citing his lack of special teams ability as the reason that he wasn’t on the field. Instead, Wendell Smallwood got the nod and while he played 19 snaps on special teams, he didn’t handle a carry. The veteran players on the team weren’t happy with that decision, so it was certainly an odd one by Gruden.
Meanwhile, on offense, the running game struggled. Guice, in particular, had issues getting going and seemed to lack burst in generating just 18 yards on 10 carries. And it was revealed that there was a reason for that. Guice was dealing with a knee injury and is now set to miss time for the Redskins. And that will thrust Peterson back into the lead-back role.
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But let’s rewind here for a second and analyze this. Because in looking at how the Redskins managed their backfield, it’s clear that they made a mistake.
Guice was coming off a torn ACL. He wasn’t cleared for contact until mid-August and had reportedly suffered a minor setback related to his hamstring at some point in the summer. Yet in the season opener, instead of making Peterson active and mixing him in with Guice, the team elected to give Guice the brunt of the workload. They didn’t ease him back in. They threw him to the wolves.
In fairness to Washington, it’s possible that Guice’s injury would’ve cropped up even if they hadn’t done that. But not at least having one of the greatest running backs of all-time healthy to split the workload with him or provide some different looks if he struggled was irresponsible. Was it the difference between a loss and a win? Probably not. But would a healthy Peterson have at least taken some of the pressure off Guice and allowed him to sit more when the injury became a problem? Absolutely.
Injuries can’t always be predicted, but the Redskins should’ve done more to protect Guice from overworking himself too early as he came back from the torn ACL. After all, wasn’t that the point of re-signing Peterson? To have him take on some of the workload and mentor Guice? It certainly seemed like it. Instead, he rode the pine and now Guice will be gone for an undefined period.
In Week 2, Peterson will get a chance to show Jay Gruden what he was missing by not having him active. And maybe he’ll be able to show that you should have your best running backs active on game day regardless of their special teams abilities.