If the Washington Redskins happen to win the NFC East this season, all thanks will go to Jay Gruden and Adrian Peterson. Yes, the same Gruden whose name stays on the NFL hot seat of coaches to be fired. And, yes, the same Peterson nobody wanted this offseason.
It’s easy to point the finger at the play of QB Alex Smith, but it’s been Peterson who has carried the weight of the team this year.
What if Adrian Peterson had called it quits after 2017? He played for the New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals to less than stellar results with a player of his resume. And in offenses that didn’t utilize his talents.
Would anyone have questioned his decision? No. His career is still first-ballot Hall of Fame, but Peterson knew he had more left.
The Redskins spent their 2018 NFL Draft second-round selection on Derrius Guice out of LSU, but an injury cost him his rookie year. With that, Gruden hit the free agency and happened to come across Peterson’s name. Despite rushing for 529 yards on 156 carries at the tender age of 32, teams felt he was done.
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The saying is that running backs are done once they hit the age of 30. While that may be true for most backs, players like Emmitt Smith, Frank Gore, and Peterson are the exceptions. However, no one wanted to give him a shot. The Washington Redskins did have a choice as they could have stayed with Chris Thompson as their lead back. But Gruden chose to go with a power back that would change the pace and be someone Smith could turn to against eight men in the box.
No one figured Adrian Peterson would hit the ground running as the Redskins’ starting back. With the season at its midway point, Peterson is 5th in the NFL in rushing with 604 yards on 136 attempts. The main staggering stat is that among the top rushers, Peterson has the 4th longest run this season with a 64-yard scamper. And, he’s still making history with runs. He’s holding his own against Saquon Barkley, Kareem Hunt, and Ezekiel Elliott.
The Redskins are sitting atop the NFC East thanks to the legs of Peterson.
With the Redskins rejoicing, teams like the Eagles, Jaguars, Falcons, Buccaneers, and Ravens could be so much better if they had taken a chance. While each team has had their fair share of struggles running the ball this season, the Redskins have hitched their playoff hopes to a player many felt was over the hill.
Former NFL running back Tiki Baber has this to say to Sports Illustrated about Pederson earlier this season on SI Now (via Washington Post).
We are sorry, AP. I thought he was done. Let’s be honest, he looked done last year and he ended up getting hurt out in Arizona . . . He didn’t look like AP of old when he was just trucking away from people, but he clipped off a 64-yarder yesterday against the New York Giants and outran a couple of guys. He looks good, he looks energized, he looks engaged. He’s carrying this Redskins’ offense. They’re not explosive at all. They’re pounding you with their run game and then their defense has been opportunistic and playing great football. This Redskins squad, you don’t know where they are really, but they’re pretty damn good. I think a lot of it is because of No. 26 Adrian Peterson.
How much does Peterson have left remains to be seen? But if Adrian Peterson can keep this up, the Redskins will be laughing all the way to the playoffs.