LANDOVER, Md. -- With 22 starters comprising offensive and defensive players, plus another faction handling special teams, football is the ultimate team sport.
Now imagine where the 2018 Washington Redskins find themselves if the front office never brings in Adrian Peterson for that mid-preseason workout. Even Jamie Lee Curtis finds that frightening.
Peterson’s return to football glory continued with 99 rushing yards on 24 carries in Washington’s 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday evening.
“I won’t say we wouldn’t be as good in the run game, but, yeah,” left tackle Trent Williams said of his former University of Oklahoma teammate.
“Obviously having [Adrian], I won’t say it’s everything, but it’s almost everything,” Williams continued. His eyes widened as the Pro Bowl lineman pondered the potential downside of this offense without the future Hall of Famer. That’s a dark timeline.
Peterson’s Redskins career now spans six regular-season games. Sunday’s display of power in tight spaces and speed when daylight exists wasn’t a one-off. In those six games, Peterson rushed for at least 96 yards four times including the last two games despite playing with a painful shoulder.
“I’m feeling good, man, we just got a W,” the smiling running back said from behind the podium inside the media room at his newish home stadium. “That makes everything feel a lot better. I feel better than I did last week, I’ll say that.”
Washington felt concerned enough about its running attack following the second preseason game to scour the free agent market. Peterson arriving at Redskins Park in August generated the expected “Whoa” from the casual NFL fans, who picture the player hammering silly defenders daring to tackle him. That player no longer existed. At least that’s what many assumed.
Peterson last topped 1,000 yards or 4.0 yards per rush in 2015. Injuries and inefficiency headlined his 2017 stops in New Orleans and Arizona. Running backs capable of carrying an offense aren’t just lying around for the taking like a rogue penny on a sidewalk. Yet, there was Peterson, waiting for a team to show interest. After losing Derrius Guice with a season-ending knee injury and recognizing the in-house options were not enough, the Redskins called.
“We didn’t have many expectations,” Jay Gruden said after the Redskins improved to 4-2 and took a 1 ½ game lead in the NFC East. “We weren’t expecting him to be on our football team until we had a couple of injuries. Then we got him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know he looked great in that workout.”
That workout led to a signing and almost simultaneously, the starting gig. Now it’s hard contemplating anyone else in those early down and short yardage scenarios. Peterson had runs of 23 and 20 yards against the Cowboys. The latter help set up one of two Dustin Hopkins field goals. His overall production helped move the chains in yet another game where the Alex Smith-led passing game lacked oomph.
This random road to Redskins Park is why Peterson’s renaissance feels shocking to many with one significant exception.
“No, not at all. I think everyone else around is surprised. I’m not,” Peterson said. “I expect greatness from myself. That’s why I put the work in. God has blessed with me this talent. A lot of people see, and a lot of people don’t. … Just keep confidence in myself. When I’m presented with my opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it every Sunday.”
Peterson is taking advantage of this opportunity with the Redskins because necessity is the mother of invention. It turns out Washington’s running attack needed a reboot more than the running back required a makeover.
“There are not many guys like [Adrian] walking around the street,” Williams said, “and luckily, we found a diamond in the rough.”