ASHBURN, Virginia — Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, in the midst of a career rejuvenation, had a natural reaction to his offense’s injury news Monday. The Redskins lost three starters, two of whom helped open holes for some of his 600-plus yards in the first half of the season. It could change the direction of not only the Redskins’ season, but determine his success as well.

“Me and my friend Maker’s Mark, we had a long night,” Peterson said.

But Peterson knows whiskey isn’t the answer to what ails the Redskins. More success from him, however, would be the antidote to their problems. And they say his numbers don’t have to change a whole lot just because of injuries to those blocking for him.

When the Redskins play at Tampa Bay on Sunday, they will be missing three of their original starting offensive linemen — left tackle Trent Williams (dislocated thumb), left guard Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL) and right guard Brandon Scherff (torn left pectoral muscle). And a fourth, right tackle Morgan Moses, did not practice because of a knee injury.

There’s a chance the starting five offensive linemen will include two players who weren’t on the roster until Monday.

“You’ve just got to stay positive and keep pressing,” said Peterson, the NFL’s ninth all-time leading rusher. “It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the end of the season for us. We all have to perform better. That’s the mindset that I have. … There’s something different when you lose three starters to where your mindset shifts to, ‘I just gotta do more than what I was doing before.'”

That’ll be hard to accomplish. Peterson has rushed for 604 yards, fifth best in the NFL, surpassing what many expected from him after he signed with Washington in mid-August. The Redskins are 5-3 and in first place in the NFC East because of Peterson and their defense. They control the ball on offense and have limited offenses — save for New Orleans and Atlanta.

In the Redskins’ five wins, Peterson has rushed for 561 yards and four touchdowns. Only the Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt have rushed for more yards in their teams’ wins; both have eight victories.

Peterson also needs more help to continue climbing career lists: He’s 380 yards from passing Eric Dickerson for eighth in rushing and needs two more rushing touchdowns to pass ex-Redskin John Riggins for sixth on the all-time list.

For the Redskins to keep winning, Peterson must remain a vital part — no matter who’s blocking.

“He just goes through his reads like he normally would,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “It doesn’t matter who’s blocking for him — at guard, center, tackle, tight end, fullback — if we had one — or receiver. He’s just going to go through his progressions and make his cuts and do what he does. It doesn’t matter.”

The Redskins use a lot of different run schemes; Peterson said opponents sometimes express amazement to him after games over the diversity of Washington’s rushing attack. The Redskins use inside and outside zone as well as power gap schemes. They’ll pull the guards; they use jet-sweep action to slow backside pursuit.

They’re hoping that’s one reason Peterson can still succeed.

“A lot of times that helps you because you have the ability to run gap scheme or zone scheme, whatever it may be,” said center Chase Roullier, the only original starter healthy enough to practice Wednesday. “And you can run it based on what the new guys coming in are better at. You can adjust the game plan with that, depending on how that goes. I don’t think there’s going to be any issue plugging those guys in and continuing to win games.”

But Peterson also has discussed how much he has had to learn in this offense, from the style of the run plays to taking handoffs out of pistol or shotgun formation. He has carried a career-high 44 times out of gun formation, averaging 4.16 yards per carry — his best stat out of that look since 2013. Gruden said Peterson’s comfort level on these runs is more about him taking the right path and less about those who are blocking.

“He’s getting more comfortable,” Gruden said. “We still have downhill runs and will get him going on those, too. The big thing with him is being patient with his reads. Obviously we’d rather have Brandon and Trent in there. But [Peterson] is still going to read it out. If reading inside zone, I’m pressing the line and reading one gap at a time … Hopefully he doesn’t have to read a three-technique [defensive lineman] in the backfield.”

The Redskins only had a long walk-through Wednesday, wanting to get through more plays than usual to help the new players acclimate faster. So Peterson couldn’t get any timing down with them, something he said he’ll try to do Thursday and Friday.

“Once we get going to another tempo that I can say little things to them I might see or notice that I’d like them to do differently or might work better,” he said. “Right now it’s just getting to know those guys and talking to them so they feel more comfortable. But most importantly just knowing that they’re going out and playing hard and fast is what we really need right now.”

One change could be less pulling action from the linemen. That’s an area where Scherff excelled, and without him it might become a reduced part of the plan. But just running the same plays doesn’t mean Peterson will have the same success. There have been times he has made his blockers look good; there were other times his blockers put him in a position to do well — and once he gets past the first wave, his jump cuts lead to more yards.

When Peterson arrived in August, he bemoaned the situation he found himself in with Arizona last season — running behind a makeshift line. However, the feeling has always been that Washington’s backups were better than the Cardinals’ starters. That theory will be tested.

“It’s always hard to tell [in practice] because it’s not live action,” Peterson said. “You always say the play looked great in practice when you draw it up and when you run through it in practice. But when you’ve got guys coming 100 miles an hour, things change. We have confidence in the guys we had here before we brought in these guys. The new guys have to step up.”


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