Washington entered the preseason with a logjam at running back, but after just two games it found itself needing to look into the free-agent market.

Rookie Derrius Guice was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first preseason game, and Byron Marshall and Samaje Perine both left the second game injured.

That leaves the team with just Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson. Over the past few days, Washington hosted a number of free-agent backs, including Jamaal Charles, Orleans Darkwa, and the former NFL MVP, Adrian Peterson.

The team made the decision to sign Peterson after he worked out Monday. Let’s take a look at how he fits with the team.

While he’s now 33, Peterson is still a phenomenal athlete with the ability to run away from defenders. He appears to have lost some of the explosiveness he once had, and isn’t able to consistently run over defenders like he once did, but he’s still someone who can occasionally create his own yards when there appears to be nothing there.

That’s something Washington has lacked at running back recently.

Peterson started his season with the Saints last year but saw little playing time behind Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara, and was traded to the Cardinals. He was a better fit with Arizona, which was willing to commit a certain number of carries to Peterson after the season-ending injury to star running back David Johnson, and catered its scheme to Peterson’s strengths.

He’s at his best in a gap scheme, where he can set up blocks by drawing defenders inside before bouncing his run to the edge.

Washington does run some plays that are similar to this, like duo or iso, but not as regularly as it runs both inside and outside zone, schemes that don’t fit what Peterson does best. He’s also most effective with the quarterback under center as opposed to the shotgun, which causes the running back’s tracks and angles of vision to change significantly – that’s never been something Peterson has had as a strength.

Washington is expected to use plenty of the shotgun formation with Alex Smith at quarterback, and might run some read-option plays out of it to take advantage of Smith’s athleticism.

All of this makes Peterson a questionable fit in Washington’s offense, and when you factor in his limitations in the passing game – he has just 46 catches in 30 games over the last five seasons – it doesn’t seem like Peterson and Washington are a great match.

It will be interesting to see how he fits in with the group of Kelley, Thompson and Bibbs, particularly if and when Perine and Marshall are able to return from injury.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.