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Jay Gruden address comments that he doesn't like AP's running style: 'You want north-south running backs'

Jay Gruden address comments that he doesn't like AP's running style: 'You want north-south running backs'

In the early stages of Sunday's Redskins-Cowboys clash, FOX Sports' Pam Oliver dropped a bombshell on the broadcast.

"Jay Gruden, to be perfectly clear, he is still not in favor of Peterson's strength, which is a north-south running style," Oliver said. "He feels like it limits the offense and gives the defense way too many opportunities."

If true, that helps explain the decision the Redskins head coach made prior to Week 1, making the 34-year-old and future Hall of Fame running back a healthy scratch for the first time in his career.

What it doesn't explain is the reasoning behind it. Peterson, who was signed just a couple of weeks prior to the 2018 season, ran for over 1,000 yards for the Burgundy and Gold a season ago, earning the team's Offensive Most Valuable Player award.

In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Gruden, NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay asked the head coach about Oliver's comments.

Gruden refuted the claim. 

"You want north-south running backs. I don’t think you want east-west backs, that’s for sure," Gruden said. "[Peterson] is a north-south runner....when he gets going north-south, what that does is creates a physical mentality for our offense. Our linemen love it, and it opens up our play-action passes. We do love north-south backs.”

What the fifth-year head coach did touch on, however, is the limited amount of plays that the offense can run with Peterson is in the game. That could explain the origin of where Oliver's comments came from. 

"[Peterson] is a north-south runner," Gruden said. "What that does, sometimes, ya know it’s hard when he’s in the game, like yesterday we were in 11 personnel and they but base on the field and said ‘heck you’re just not going to run it’ and you know we had to throw it." 

It's no secret that Gruden prefers a running back that can be involved in the passing game as well. While Peterson has improved in that facet, the Redskins other options -- Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood, and even the injured Derrius Guice -- are currently better pass-catching backs.

Of the Redskins 62 offensive snaps, Thompson, the best pass-catching running back of the bunch, was the one who played the most. Peterson played just 18 snaps, 29 percent of the team's offensive plays.

The flow of the game also could have affected this, as the Redskins found themselves trailing for the majority of the afternoon. 

Still, Gruden insists that there's a role for Peterson in the offense.

"You know, he played last year and had a thousand yards, so..." he said.

Regardless of who the running back has been for the Burgundy and Gold thus far in 2019, they largely have been ineffective.

Against Philadelphia, Guice mustered just 18 rushing yards on 10 carries. Peterson received the same amount of carries in Week 2 vs. Dallas and didn't perform much better. Sure, he found the end zone, but was not a factor otherwise, rushing for a total of just 25 yards.

Through the first two games, the Redskins have been outrushed 336-75. That is not a winning formula by any means.

When asked why the rushing attack has been so poor in 2019, Gruden couldn't point to one specific reason.

"Combination of things," Gruden said. "Philadelphia, we tried to run the ball in the second half and we had a negative play and a holding penalty. You know, there are things that take you out of the running game, and then you lose the lead and you have to try and play a little bit faster, play a little bit of catch up and you aren’t able to run the ball. So, we haven’t been able to stick with the run for four quarters and we haven’t had enough production out of the running game."

That must change immediately, starting next Monday against Chicago, if the Redskins want to turn their season around. Gruden is confident that it will.

"We had a couple of good hits, AP had a couple of good hits [Sunday] against Dallas, we can build off of that," he said. "But I also think that when you have a new left tackle and a new left guard coming in for the first time and you have the tight end issues we’ve had a little bit, I think we’ll get there."

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Week 11 results that would help the Redskins in their race for the 2020 first overall pick

Week 11 results that would help the Redskins in their race for the 2020 first overall pick

The Redskins didn't play in Week 10 but find themselves in a better position to snatch the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft entering Week 11. That is thanks in large part to a shocking Sunday that saw bottom-dwellers like the Dolphins, Jets and Falcons all pick up victories.

As of now, Washington holds the second pick in the draft and sits just a game back of the winless Bengals. However, wins by the other teams give the Redskins at least a one-game advantage on those behind them.

So, with six weeks remaining in the 2019 regular season, that first overall pick is still very much in play. 

The Redskins matchup this week can go a long way in determining how the draft order eventually plays out. Going up against the Jets, Sunday's game could be one of the last games this season in which a win by Washington wouldn't be all that surprising. After an abysmal showing two weeks ago against the Dolphins, the Jets looked much better in a win over the Giants. Still, New York's inconsistency over the season puts them on the same level of the Redskins.

When looking at the matchup from a draft perspective, it would actually be better for the Redskins to lose. A loss would keep them close to the Bengals, and even allow them to jump if the Bengals were to pick up a win. Additionally, beating the Jets would then give New York the advantage over Washington if the two finished the season with the same amount of wins.

However, it is understandably difficult to root for your team to lose a football game, no matter how poorly the season is going. A win for Washington has its benefits as well, particularly because it would potentially mean rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins showed signs of improvement and development as he prepares to start the rest of the year. Win or lose, there will be something good to come out of Sunday's game.

As for the rest of the action around the league, here's what could help the Redskins get closer to the first pick.

Bengals beat Raiders

Switching to rookie quarterback Ryan Finley didn't seem to help the Bengals at all as a 49-13 loss to the Ravens dropped them to 0-9. On both sides of the football, the Bengals just don't look like they have enough to match or compete with anyone.

Week 11 won't be any easier, as the Raiders are a team that is finding its footing as the season continues. At this point, the Bengals winning seems far-fetched even after all the upsets that just took place, but Redskins fans should be pulling for that far fetched results to happen anyway.

Dolphins stay hot and defeat the Bills

Miami, somehow, is on a two-game winning streak. That seems like a sentence that doesn't belong in 2019. Yes, the latest victory was against a Brian Hoyer-led Colts team, but Ryan Fitzpatrick and company are playing decently and have some confidence heading into a battle with Buffalo. 

Though the Bills are the superior team, Buffalo's offense has not clicked much in recent weeks. In the Miami heat, crazier things have happened.

Falcons build off shocking upset to take down Panthers

No game may have been more surprising than the one in which the 1-7 Falcons went into New Orleans and totally outmatched the 7-1 Saints. If that same team somehow shows up against the Panthers this weekend, there's no reason to think Atlanta won't extend its winning streak to two.

Other things to monitor

The Giants jumped from sixth to third in the draft order after losing to the Jets and are now in serious consideration for the first pick. However, a bye this week means New York can't really do much to benefit anyone else.

As for three-win teams like the Browns, Buccaneers, Broncos, Cardinals and Lions, the Redskins still hold two-game leads over all of them. So wins or losses by those squads won't immediately impact Washington's standing, though wins would make things easier for the Redskins down the stretch.

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Here are three things to look for from Derrius Guice in his return from injured reserve

Here are three things to look for from Derrius Guice in his return from injured reserve

Dwayne Haskins isn't the only young and important Redskin making his FedExField debut this Sunday against the Jets.

Derrius Guice, who was activated off of injured reserve last week, will be appearing in front of Washington's fans for the first time as well. His three previous times on an NFL field came in New England, Atlanta and Philadelphia. 

Now, it's difficult to come up with expectations for Guice versus New York, considering it's unknown how he'll split time with Adrian Peterson and how much responsibility the coaching staff wants to give him in his first action since Week 1.

However, while setting specific numbers is a bit foolish, it's definitely worth asking: What kinds of things should the Redskins and their fans want to see from Guice on Sunday?

This list of three things feels like a fair place to start.

1) Finishing the afternoon healthy

This is the most simple and also the most critical thing Guice can do in Week 11.

The second-year pro has suited up for two preseason contests and one regular season affair. In the first of those three, he tore his ACL. In the third of those three, he tore his meniscus.

At this point, there are questions as to whether Guice can be relied upon in the Burgundy and Gold's future, or whether he's too injury-prone. Those questions aren't going to be completely answered by one healthy showing, but they will fade away with each performance he starts and finishes.

2) Delivering blows to defenders

Haskins and Guice haven't been around each other a ton, but the quarterback already has a feel for what the running back can offer the offense.

"Very tough runner," Haskins said of Guice on Wednesday. "He's hard to bring down with the first tackle."

In Guice's albeit limited reps carrying the ball for the Redskins, he has displayed a willingness to take on defenders and initiate contact. There may only be a few chances to look for that in the Jets matchup because of Peterson's presence and a potential light workload, but still, there will be chances.

If Guice is willing to dish out punishment, even coming off his second knee surgery in the league, that means he's feeling like himself. And if he's feeling like himself, his opponents will be feeling like not tackling him.

3) Contributing in the passing game

One area where Guice might be able to operate without losing time to Peterson is in the passing attack. Jay Gruden was always high on what No. 29 can do there, and while Gruden and Bill Callahan have coached the Redskins quite differently, they intersect on that point.

"Prior to his injury, he was doing really well in the passing game," Callahan said Wednesday. "Being able to flex him out, move him, motion him, shift him into those various alignments where we can create a matchup with it. He's been productive as a screen back, a check-down back."

Pay attention to whether Guice is moved around in the ways Callahan mentioned, which would be a nice, creative addition to the offense. Also see if he's able to generate a chunk play or two off of a screen or check-down. 

Peterson is a legend, obviously, but if he's not getting handoffs, he's not doing much. Guice, meanwhile, per his coaches, can be effective as a receiver as well as a runner, a skillset that'll hopefully reveal itself soon.

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