With Rob Kelley on the shelf with injuries, the Redskins are going to turn to a fourth-round rookie to try to get their running game in gear.
Samaje Perine moves up to the top of the depth chart after Kelley went to injured reserve with knee and ankle injuries. Perine’s playing time has been spotty this year. He didn’t get into the game on offense three times this year. His high in snaps this year was 30 against the Raiders, a game where Kelley was inactive due to a rib injury. Last week he played 20 snaps against the Vikings after Kelley departed with his injuries.
As the season went on, Perine’s performance running the ball has improved. In the first seven games of the season, he averaged 3.0 yards per carry. I’m not sure if there is the running back equivalent of baseball’s Mendoza line, but that’s pretty close to it.
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In the past two games, Perine has averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Here is a small sample size warning—he has just 11 carries in those two games. But he seems to be finding holes more easily and avoiding the ankle tackles that seemed to bring him down regularly earlier in the season.
“It’s just reps, I have to get some reps,” said Perine. “Once the reps build up and once you feel more comfortable in the situation and things start to slow down for you. Once you’re comfortable you know where everyone’s going to be. I can anticipate, kind of, what the line is doing and what the defense is doing.”
Jay Gruden noted that Perine worked almost exclusively out of the shotgun formation in college at Oklahoma and it has taken him some time to adjust to the I-formation the Redskins often use when running the ball.
“He’s good out of the shotgun, but we’ve just got to keep giving him the ball,” said Gruden. “Like I said the other day, I think he’s a guy that’ll get better with more carries. He’s such a physical guy that I think the more carries he gets, he’ll wear down a defense.”
One of the reasons for the zero-snap games for Perine has been ball security issues. He has just one fumble on his official stat sheet but there have been some mix-ups on handoffs with Kirk Cousins that clearly appeared to be Perine’s fault, but were charged to Cousins’ ledger.
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Cousins believes that these issues can be worked out with Perine now taking the starter reps in practice and getting more reps in games.
“I would think that that will get better as we work together longer, that he’ll get a better feel for how each exchange looks and I’ll get a better feel for what he needs,” said Cousins.
Gruden noted that Perine is the kind of back who needs to get a lot of carries to be effective.
“He’s not so much a spell guy, he’s more of a ‘run it, run it, run it,’ type guy,” he said.
The Redskins have not “run it, run it, run it” much during their last four games. The running backs have averaged 17 carries per game. Perhaps related to that is the fact that the Redskins’ record in those games is 1-3. Possibly Gruden will give Perine enough carries to get warmed up and then we might really see what he can do.