For the Redskins offense to be successful in 2019, head coach Jay Gruden has reiterated the same thing throughout the offseason: it starts with establishing a solid ground game.
The running back unit may be the deepest position group on the Redskins' offense. The Burgundy and Gold re-signed veteran Adrian Peterson this past offseason after the 34-year-old eclipsed 1,000 yards with the team a season ago. Derrius Guice, the Redskins' second-round pick from 2018, is fully recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last August and has been one of the standouts in training camp thus far. Chris Thompson, Washington's best pass-catching running back, will once again serve as the primary third-down back.
There is no question the Redskins have talent at the position. The difficult part is figuring out how to use each player.
Even as he enters his thirteenth NFL season, Peterson expects to be the main back. The seven-time Pro Bowler had 251 rushing attempts a season ago, responsible for 74 percent of the Redskins' rushing attempts by non-quarterbacks.
But Washington drafted Guice just a year ago with the intention of making him the primary back of the future. Heck, Washington only signed Peterson last August after Guice lost his rookie year from the ACL injury. But a year later, the former LSU standout is fully healthy and having an excellent training camp.
When asked during June's mandatory minicamp about how he plans to split the carries between the two, running backs coach Randy Jordan hopes to have as equal of a balance as possible.
“They are both different, but they are both explosive,” Jordan said. “The thing is ideally you would like to see a 50/50, 60/40 [split]."
In June, ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio suggested that splitting carries could end up being a "potential problem."
"He wants to be the guy," Florio said. "Derrius Guice is going to — if he plays like he did before we saw that ACL tear last year — he's going to potentially eat into those touches and Adrian Peterson will not be happy about it and he will not be bashful about saying so."
Despite competing for touches, Peterson and Guice appear to have a close relationship.
"We are all looking at him, he's that big brother and that leader that we need. We are all looking at him as the GOAT," Guice said on Peterson. "He gives us all advice. Whenever we do a play we go to the sidelines and ask what he saw and what he thought. Same in the meeting room. When we are watching the film from practice, we are all looking at AP, asking him what he thinks and what he saw."
As far as roster spots go, those two along with Thompson are a lock. But assuming that Washington keeps four running backs on their roster, who grabs that final spot?
Samaje Perine seems to be the likely candidate for the final position, as Gruden has gone out of his way multiple times this offseason to praise the former Oklahoma rusher. Should Perine make the team, that would leave Byron Marshall on the outside looking in.
Where Marshall does have an advantage over Perine is in the special teams phase, however. Marshall is competing for the starting punt returning job, and that alone could keep him on the active roster.
The group has a lot of talent, but Gruden will have some tough decisions to make in the near future in terms of both who makes the team as well as how much each running back plays.
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