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Training camp battles: How will the 1-2 punch work with Peterson and Guice?

Training camp battles: How will the 1-2 punch work with Peterson and Guice?

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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Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

Cardale Jones and the DC Defenders ready to kick off an updated XFL

The reboot is almost here. 

The second edition of the XFL, the infamous football league brought to you by WWE founder Vince McMahon for a memorable, combustible one-year run in 2001, begins play in February. It is a second chance for the league and for the players who’ve joined, including former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Jones is the quarterback for the DC Defenders, Washington’s newest pro franchise that will play its home games at D.C. United’s Audi Field. The first game isn’t until February 8 after the NFL’s season concludes with the Super Bowl, but the organization opened its offseason camp at the University of Maryland’s Cole Field House indoor facility on Thursday. The debut is just over two months away. 

“I love it. It’s pretty cool to be part of something that’s going to be a first, a historical moment of the return [of the XFL] and to be in [the D.C.] area,” Jones said. “Hopefully not just me, but this team can leave a lasting impression.”

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the Defenders will make on a crowded winter sports scene with the NHL’s Capitals and NBA’s Wizards playing and the World Series champion Nationals starting their title defense just across the street from Audi Field in April just as the XFL plays its final two games and its two playoff rounds. 

Jones, of course, led Ohio State to the national championship in 2014 when he came off the bench to replace two injured starters and led the Buckeyes to wins in the Big 10 championship game and two more in the college football playoffs. He started seven games in 2015 as a redshirt junior, but lost his job and turned pro after that season. 

Part of the appeal of the XFL is to get another shot at an NFL opportunity. Jones was drafted in the fourth round by the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and made his debut in a game late that season. He was traded to the Los Angeles Chargers in 2018 and spent that year on the practice squad. Jones was with the Seattle Seahawks this summer and again cut from the practice squad in September.  

“My focus is strictly on the XFL and the DC Defenders, nothing more, nothing less,” Jones said. “I do have long-term goals and aspirations, but all of them consist of being a better player and teammate to this franchise and this organization.”

Pep Hamilton is the head coach and general manager of the Defenders. Quarterback at Howard in the early 1990s, Hamilton has spent 10 years coaching in the NFL and was most recently the assistant head coach and passing game coordinator at Michigan. 

That drew a laugh from Jones, who was going back and forth with Hamilton to set up a meeting after the Defenders’ roster was announced. Hamilton still has a home in Ann Arbor so that’s where Jones, the ultimate Ohio State guy, had to go. 

“Right around the corner from the University,” Jones cracked. “So I had to drive past the Big House every freakin’ time I’d go up there. Monday through Wednesday I’d have to go past there.”

Jones laughed and said he was driving through campus one day and saw some players he recognized wearing Michigan gear. He yelled out the car window “O-H!” and sped past them cackling. Every workout Jones makes sure he has his Ohio State cleats on and Hamilton wears his Michigan shoes. 

Jones, Hamilton and the rest are all on the same team now, though, and it will take lots of repetitions throughout the offseason for players from colleges all over the country to come together and form a cohesive group. There isn’t much time. Walk throughs and team meetings began this week and continue into next week. Then come OTAs next weekend and finally a two-day minicamp on Dec. 16-17. 

“This is going to be interesting,” Jones said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I sense a great buzz. We did a couple of appearances and some meet-and-greets with the fans and I was shocked by the response that we got and how excited people are around the city. It’s football all year round.” 

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Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

Nate Orchard was installing windows prior to signing with the Redskins

A week ago, many Redskins fans were not familiar with the name Nate Orchard. But after No. 54's exceptional performance in the Redskins' Week 13 victory over Carolina, he's turned into a feel-good story in an otherwise tough season in Washington.

As many Redskins fans know by now, Orchard was signed just days before the Week 13 game. Due to injuries to linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Montez Sweat, as well as Ryan Anderson being ejected, Orchard was forced to play meaningful snaps towards the end of Sunday's victory. He finished with a sack, recovering a fumble, and two tackles for loss in the win.

The former star on HBO's Hard Knocks while he was with the Cleveland Browns had worked out for 10 (!!) teams this season, but none chose to sign Orchard until Washington did last week. It makes sense why he was so emotional postgame.

So, how was Orchard spending his time before joining the Burgundy and Gold? 

Orchard, who spent most Mondays and Tuesdays this season working out for NFL teams, was installing windows in Utah a few days during the week, according to 106.7 The Fan.

"A typical week for me, I would leave for a workout Monday, get back Tuesday night," Orchard said on 106.7's Grant and Danny"Wednesday morning, I'd hit the gym early, then go and install windows from 7 [o'clock] until about 3 [o'clock], then come back to my family and rest up. [I would] repeat that Thursday and Friday."

Orchard admitted that he questioned whether he should continue to train and wait for a call, but says his wife encouraged him to stay motivated and continue to workout.

They say hard work pays off, and Orchard's whirlwind of a season thus far ended up being very rewarding for him this past Sunday.

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