There wasn't much good that came out of the Washington Football Team’s 20-16 loss to the Eagles on Sunday. There hasn’t been much good to come out of anything regarding the Burgundy & Gold since Week 13.
But amid all the struggles Ron Rivera's group has gone through, running back Jaret Patterson has emerged as a source of optimism in the running game. Since Antonio Gibson landed on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week, the rookie out of Buffalo was thrust into a starting role vs. Philadelphia. He took the opportunity and ran with it, literally.
“To me it means a lot. I am grateful to be here,” Patterson said after the game. “Growing up around the area and watching this team, I believe in this organization with my whole heart. I feel like this can be a successful organization. It’s been a lot, but that is just our reality. We just have to focus in and lean on our teammates and our Washington family.”
Patterson was born in Glenn Dale, Maryland and went to St. Vincent Pallotti high school in Laurel. After wowing at the University of Buffalo, he went undrafted. Sunday was his first-ever time starting as an RB1 in the NFL.
“It's special. It just helps my mentality,” he said. “I want to be an inspiration to a guy that goes undrafted, you can do it. It is a lot being a hometown kid and I just believe in this organization, the coaching staff, and I believe we are going in the right direction.”
Patterson finished the game with 57 rushing yards off 12 carries and a touchdown. His first-quarter score was the second of his career, and the first at his hometown stadium of FedEx Field. Though it was a big moment for Patterson, it wasn’t big enough to overshadow a loss in a very winnable game.
“It was cool, but I am a guy that cares about winning," Patterson said. "I am a competitor and I love winning. I could care less about the stats. I just want to get in that win column.”
Head coach Ron Rivera also took note of the rookie’s impressive debut as a starter.
“I think Jaret is one of those young guys that the more experience he gets, the more opportunities he gets, the better he is going to be,” Rivera said. “He’s a young dynamic player that definitely could fit a role for you. He gives you everything you got, and I thought he did a nice job. I really did.”
With one game remaining in the 2021 season for Washington, a loss to the Eagles in Week 17 officially eliminated the squad from playoff contention. Patterson’s emergence as a solid backfield piece has certainly been a bright spot from an overall underwhelming year.
Heading into the offseason after next weekend, WFT could look in a number of different directions for improvements. But Patterson lining the depth chart behind Gibson should be a reason for relief for Washington’s coaching staff.
At just 5-foot-8, Patterson likely doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of defensive lines the same way the Derrick Henrys of the world do. But size is just a number, as WFT quarterback Taylor Heinicke said of Patterson.
“He performed great. Again, he's making huge strides all year,” Heinicke said. “When you see him do the things that he's doing, it's really cool especially because a lot of guys are just writing him off because he's so small. But you see how tough he is and he's a good football player. So hopefully he just keeps progressing.”