In the 2018 season opener, Redskins running back Adrian Peterson ran 26 times for 96 yards and a touchdown, bludgeoning the Cardinals in a decisive win. In the 2019 season opener, Peterson won't even play.
A source informed NBC Sports Washington early Sunday morning that Peterson would land on the inactive list for Sunday's game against the Eagles. Not listed on the injury report all week, this marks a healthy scratch for Peterson, his first ever in Washington.
Speculation began to grow around the move throughout the week.The Junkies reported a discussion between head coach Jay Gruden and other team officials about possibly releasing Peterson on cut down day, but the veteran obviously stayed with the team. Then, multiple times this week, Gruden explained that second-year pro Derrius Guice would get the bulk of the team's carries.
"The big thing is we get somebody ready for the mother load and everybody else is ready for whatever else they can get," Gruden said of Guice on Thursday.
The complicating factor here are special teams. Despite rushing for more than 1,000 yards last season and being named the Redskins Offensive Player of the Year, Peterson provides no value on special teams. He's too accomplished at this stage of his career to ask him to field a punt or a kickoff. Last week, the Redskins signed Wendell Smallwood, formerly of the Eagles, and he can play on all special teams coverage groups. Things really took a turn when Washington was forced to release wide receiver Robert Davis, a core special team player, to promote tight end JP Holtz to the active roster. That move happened because Jordan Reed will miss the game with a concussion.
No Davis means the team needs somebody that can play special teams. Smallwood is that guy.
It might seem a bit crazy that releasing Davis, a sixth-round pick in 2017 with one career NFL game on his resume, could lead to Peterson's benching, but that's life in the NFL.
It's also important to point out that Peterson might have been a healthy scratch even without the Davis release. Gruden's comments all week suggested that the head coach was moving forward with Guice until something happens to change that plan. While different running backs, Peterson and Guice are both capable of piling up carries in a game, a traditional bell-cow role. At their size, Thompson and Smallwood are not, both are more scat-back types.
For his part, Peterson said all the right things about being Guice's backup when asked on Thursday.
"At the end of the day, I'm paid to do what they ask me to do," he said. "So that's all I can do and all I can control."
It's one thing to be a backup, even for Peterson. Guice looks like an incredibly promising young back and Washington selected him in the second round in 2018. Had Guice not injured his knee, Peterson never would have arrived in Washington in the first place. So again, being a backup is understandable.
Being inactive is different. And it's unclear how that role will sit with Peterson.
Think about this - some day he will be fit for a gold jacket and a bronze bust in Canton, but on Sunday, Peterson will be healthy yet wearing street clothes on the sideline in Philadelphia.
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