This week, JP Finlay and Pete Hailey will examine some of the more critical position battles you'll see on the Redskins over the next few months.
The next one? Running back.
Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, JD McKissic, Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love, Josh Ferguson
*The hard part about discussing the competition at running back is that there are really two competitions. Or maybe more.
*Scott Turner’s offense likes a back that can go downhill and a back that can catch passes, possibly many passes. Yes, Christian McCaffey caught lots and lots of passes, but he’s also an elite talent. That doesn’t mean Turner expects one of the Redskins RBs this fall to catch 100+ passes. The offense won’t get called like that.
*So, if there are multiple competitions, what are they? The team will want a somewhat traditional 1st and 2nd-down runner and then a pass-catching 3rd-down back too. Now that doesn’t mean the 3rd-down back is never on the field on 1st down, nor does it mean the 1st-down back never sees a 3rd down, but in general, there will be certain roles for certain guys.
*Finally, onto the players. Peterson has a roster spot. Period. Guice, if healthy, will be the top dog. He could give Turner somebody that will keep defenses guessing as he’s proved effective catching passes out of the backfield.
*Gibson definitely has a roster spot, but don’t sleep on how much he could line up at WR.
*McKissic and Barber signed two-year deals but neither contract guarantees the veteran runners a roster spot. McKissic seems ahead of Barber, though.
*McKissic can definitely help Turner as a versatile weapon out of the backfield and an able pass catcher. Barber is a downhill runner than won’t deliver much excitement but will hang on to the football and average about 3.5 yards-per-carry. If Guice and Peterson are healthy, where does Barber fit?
*Here’s the thing with the running back “competition” — health will determine so much. Guice and Love are injury question marks. Until those answers get revealed, everything else is unknown.
*Peterson experienced a slight decline in nearly every stat last year, except for one. Fortunately, it's the one that happens to matter the most: yards per rush. In 2018, he averaged 4.2 yards each time he carried the ball, and in 2019, he went for 4.3. That's encouraging.
*Is it just me, or does the hype around Guice feel more restrained this offseason? No. 29 showed against the Panthers last December that, when he's right, he can take over a game like a dominant NBA point guard. The only problem is that was basically the only time we've seen that out of him through two campaigns. I know fans still have major love for Guice, but it doesn't seem like there's nearly as much chatter about him as there usually is. Maybe that's best for everyone.
*When it comes to McKissic, I'm going to take it a step, or steps, further than JP: He's on this squad. And I think he's going to do an admirable job of replacing Chris Thompson's production. Turner is going to have fun deploying him every weekend.
*Gibson had more grabs than carries in his final season at Memphis, and I think he'll repeat that in the NFL as a rookie. Yes, the offense should look to get him involved on the ground — with his size and explosiveness, there'll be times when the smartest thing for Turner to do is give Gibson the ball ASAP and simply let him try to create — but overall, I think his best chance to consistently contribute will be when he's running routes out of the backfield or off the line of scrimmage. He could really rack up some serious yards after catch for the Burgundy and Gold right away.
*If Love doesn't make the roster this year — and right now, that's the outcome I'm expecting — it'll be a real letdown. His numbers from Stanford are wild, and the Redskins haven't had someone with his speed at running back in a really long time. But that's what you get when, like Bruce Allen loved to do, you draft guys with injury concerns in hopes of getting a bargain. Sometimes, that bargain hits, and you end up with a luxury item at a steal of a price. But on other occasions, it becomes obvious why the bargain was marked down in the first place. Love is a true talent and I hope he can really be a part of this mix, but I don't know if he's healthy enough to even try, and if he is, I don't see much room for him anyway.
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