Washington Redskins: Why Adrian Peterson Will Not Meet Expectations in D.C.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Naturally, the hype surrounding Adrian Peterson’s signing with the Washington Redskins has spiraled out of control. So too will the disappointment when his production ultimately undercuts expectations.

In the wake of the injury to Derrius Guice, the Redskins, who’d seemingly found their long-sought answer at running back, were suddenly subjected to endless questions, both new and painfully familiar.

The Redskins plan to attack the familiar questions how they have for the past two years: Keeping their ranks as staffed as possible with marginal contributors such as Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine, and Kapri Bibbs. As for the new question, how the Redskins will rebound from losing such an exciting player so early… well, they turned to a depleted free agent market to settle that.

The Redskins signed Adrian Peterson.

The hype around Peterson is understandable; much of it is based on name recognition alone. And let’s be clear: Even at 33 years old, Peterson still has the experience and sheer knowledge of the game that so many other backs lack entirely. It’s the kind of experience that one only gains from playing ten years in the National Football League as a running back, breaking the 1,000-yard mark seven times, and becoming one of just seven backs in NFL history to break the 2,000-yard mark. Winning an MVP award serves as a proverbial cherry-on-top.

Unfortunately, while knowledge ultimate refinement is gained from such a high quantity of experience, so too is wear and tear. For running backs, who seek out contact on almost every play, this wear and tear comes in increased increments, and it slows you faster, unless you’re Frank Gore, of course.

Peterson isn’t Gore, and while he is a downright outrageous physical specimen, he’s certainly on the decline, health-wise. Out of 64 possible games played in the past four seasons, Peterson has only played 30, less than half. Taking out his full 2015 season, and Peterson has only played 14 games out of a possible 48. He suffered an ACL tear earlier in his career and a torn meniscus later on. Granted, he recovered very swiftly when he was younger. But he’s not young anymore.

Couple Peterson’s health and age concerns with the dynamic of the running back room he’s entering, and it’s clear that this signing will not bear the fruit it has promised. Robert Kelley is the presumed starter, with a staunch supporter in the team’s own head coach, Jay Gruden. Samaje Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, put enough solid play on the field to be given opportunities, and Chris Thompson, the team’s explosive third-down back, will need plenty of reps as well. Peterson doesn’t work well in committees, as we saw in New Orleans last year. Unfortunately for him, Washington is unlikely to stray from that approach.

Additionally, Jay Gruden hates fumbles. He’s benched players after just one fumble. And Peterson, historically, has fumbled quite a bit over his 10-year career. If his ball security problem rears its ugly head again in Washington, which is a safe assumption to make, to some degree, then Peterson will sooner find the bench than any degree of individual success.

Peterson’s return in Washington makes for a good story. But it is primed to end in disappointment.