A ‘Skins Running Back Breakdown; Adrian Peterson to Washington

Just when ‘Skins Fans thought they were gonna start the 2018 NFL season without drama or controversy, four running backs went down and Washington football is officially back in full swing.

Recently losing Derrius Guice, Samaje Perine, Byron Marshall, and Martez Carter, the ‘Skins found themselves solely with the Batman and Robin-esque duo of Fat Rob and Chris Thompson leading the backfield coming into the regular season.

While his season was cut short last year due to injury, Thompson was finally able to solidify himself as Washington’s fan-favorite. His catch-passing and third down abilities make him one of the best scatbacks in the league and a great asset for Washington. Unfortunately, due to his 5’8” 195 lb size, the Florida State product’s frame likely cannot handle consistent first through third down touches without taking significant damage over the few first games.

Coach Jay once said, “Oh, man, I love Rob Kelley.” Losing 28 lbs since his Senior year at Tulane, the newly dubbed “Fit Rob” should not be underestimated as a game-changer for the ‘Skins this season. Kelley’s attitude has never once been questioned and he has done nothing but work his ass off for this city.

Even behind the worst ‘Skins’ lines, Kelley got after it and managed to produce. Starting the last nine games as a rookie in 2016, Kelly averaged a solid four yards per carry. That ties him with the 2017 average yardage of Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, and Tevin Coleman. While he was brushed under the rug of mediocrity that was the 2017 Washington Redskins, I think he is primed to make a big return come September.

Yesterday, Washington signed seven-time pro-bowler Adrian Peterson. The deal is just for one year, one million dollars, and no guaranteed money (AKA it’s a safe signing). While I love it when Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder put their big-boy pants on and actually go out and sign a big name, this one may be several years too old, and not a schematic fit for the ‘Skins.

Peterson played 10 total games for the Saints and Cardinals last year until a neck injury sidelined him for the season. He averaged an abysmal 3.39 yards per carry. According to Football Outsiders’ metric DYAR — a measurement for a player’s season value — Peterson placed second to last compared to running backs with over 100 carries. The even better news; our very own Samaje “No Line” Perine was the back who placed last.

Ex-Vikings lineman and former teammate of Peterson, Geoff Schwartz, tweeted “You’re adding AP to an already established run game in Washington. They shouldn’t change everything they do for him.”

As fans may say, Washington’s running game is the furthest thing from “established.” Regardless of consistent production, the ‘Skins have now solidified the zone-run as the basis of their run game. Peterson, however, has had much of his success under iso and power run schemes, relying on a plethora of tough tight ends, fullbacks, and bulldozing linemen to help him steadily roll down the field against a stacked 8-man box.

Washington’s running game often consists of more shotgun snaps and spreading the field with their zone-run scheme. This puts more emphasis on the running back’s vision and a agility rather than pure north/south vertical running.

As shown with guys like Thompson, the ‘Skins love passing to their backs. All of which makes it even more concerning to hear that Peterson has not caught more than 30 passes in a season since 2012. Alex Smith has also shown his best work with receiving-capable backs such as Jamaal Charles and Kareem Hunt.

While there are reasons to be skeptical, there is one thing that stats and metrics can overlook: Adrian Peterson is a certified playmaker. Winning the MVP award in 2012, Peterson was able to run for a 2nd-all-time record of 2,097 yards. That is 649 more yards than the entire ‘Skins team ran last year.

While age, scheme, and the overall Washington-football curse may not be in Peterson’s favor, there is no denying that he has abilities that have proven unparalleled in the NFL. If he has trouble consistently producing on first and second down with the ‘Skins’ zone-run scheme, he may find his results with short yardage and goal line situations, as more iso and power run plays could be run in order to move the sticks.

But knowing Washington, there is a solid chance AD will be hurt in the next preseason game, and we’ll be back to a 7-9 year with a Rob Kelly 16-game starting tenure. Without a doubt, it will be interesting to see the Vikings legend hopefully find a role with the Washington offense.

– Mason


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