Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels and Perry Mattern provide five takeaways from running back Adrian Peterson's first interview with the media and what the signing means for the team following Tuesday's practice.
1. Peterson will aim to be the No. 1 starter amongst stiff competition.
Despite the pedigree that Peterson holds as he joins the Redskins, Gruden made it clear that he won't be immediately jumping to the top of the depth chart. Certainly Peterson has a shot to the Redskins' Week 1 starter ("I would be cheating myself if that wasn't my approach," he said), but there are multiple factors – including ones Peterson can't control – that will go into the decision.
"There's a lot that goes into it," Gruden said. "Not only what he can do, but where we are at the running back position – where Rob [Kelley] is, where Samaje [Perine] is with his ankle, where Byron [Marshall] is with is knee, where Chris Thompson is. I think there's a lot of factors involved with our final decision when it comes to the running back position."
While Chris Thompson is unlikely to play much, if at all, in the preseason, Kelley and Kapri Bibbs will still receive a decent amount of reps in Friday's preseason game against the Broncos. Because of Peterson's extensive NFL experience, Gruden thinks Peterson can step in and play Friday. With who, and for how long, becomes the question for Peterson.
As Gruden alluded to, Perine and Marshall's health will also play a factor. While it seems iffy at best that Marshall will be ready for the start of the regular season, Gruden has been adamant that Perine's ankle sprain won't keep him out for long. That will create a three-way battle for first- and second-down carries that Gruden and his staff will have to distribute.
"I'm going to go about the business the way I'm going to go about and give it to the people who I think, but I'd like to give him some looks and see what he can do," Gruden said. "I want to see the explosion in the hole, [Peterson's] vision, all that good stuff. I don't think he's going to lose that, but it's just a matter of taking the hits, play after play after play and see where he stands as far as stamina goes."
2. Jay Gruden envisions Peterson being a first and second down running back.
Gruden has been adamant about making sure that at least one running back on the depth chart can fit the mold of Chris Thompson as a necessary backup. In other words, he would play mostly on third downs, provide good pass protection and be a receiving threat out of the backfield. That role falls mostly on Kapri Bibbs for the time being after Byron Marshall injured his ankle in last Thursday's contest with the Jets.
Which means that Adrian Peterson will be primarily tasked with running the ball on first and second down, grinding out yardage without needing to learn pass protection schemes and exercising another part of his skillset within the first couple days of playing for his new organization.
"I wouldn't ask Adrian to be on third down with all the things he'd have to learn right now," Gruden said. "That's Chris, Byron and Kapri [that] have that stranglehold. We're really looking for first, second down guys. Obviously, third down-and-short to medium he'd be in there, but that's what we're looking for."
With Thompson unlikely to play on Friday as he continues to recover from last year's leg injury, Gruden needed to make sure the Redskins had at least one more back that could carry the bulk of snaps, especially with Perine questionable to be ready. He expects Peterson to be able to play against Denver.
"I think if you've got a Redskins jersey on, you are here to compete and make the squad, and it's no different with him," Gruden said. "He looks great right now, legs are underneath him, looks explosive, big, strong and fast, so we'll see how he does day after day, till the fourth preseason game."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Preseason Week 3 game against the Denver Broncos Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
3. Peterson blew away the Redskins coaches and scouting staff at his workout.
More than anything – more than his pedigree, his history, his experience – head coach Jay Gruden was impressed most with Adrian Peterson's conditioning after the running back completed his workout in front of scouts and coaches on Monday. At his press conference on Tuesday, Gruden acknowledged that the former MVP's remarkable physical condition was a good indication of his commitment to football and desire to keep playing in the NFL.
"[He looked explosive] not only early in the workout, but at the end of the workout and he was not even breathing heavy," Gruden said. "He's in fantastic physical shape."
"He's actually a physical freak if you want to say that," Gruden added. "Like I said before, at the start of the workout Randy [Jordan] put him through to the end of the workout and he didn't even break a sweat, hardly. He's in great shape, explosive, and that is really what sold us. Sometimes these backs come in for workouts and they haven't been doing anything, and you can tell they're out shape. Some of the backs we had in here were huffing and puffing, keeling over and he's standing straight up. He could have gone for another two hours. That played mostly into it -- his great physical condition."
Peterson doesn't let the doubters get in the way, and remains motivated and confident that he has just the same or better burst, acceleration and power than the majority of young players that work out at his training facility in Texas.
"You get out what you put in. You've got to run to make sure your lungs are open and conditioned well and do different things," Peterson said. "So, that's what I attribute it to. I don't allow people to box me in."
4. He's got a lot left in the tank.
Since leading the NFL with 1,485 rushing yards in 2015, Peterson has totaled just 601 yards in 13 games. His 3.1 yards per carry over the last two seasons is the third-fewest among players with 150-plus rushes over that span (h/t ESPN Stats & Info).
Peterson has heard this narrative: he doesn't have it anymore. Peterson couldn't disagree more.
"I know there are a lot of athletes out there that are commentators now and they have so much to say," Peterson said. "Well maybe when they were 33, they didn't feel like they had it or they couldn't do it. I don't allow people to box me in [and] that's what I just try to tell people in general, 'Don't allow anyone to box you in'. You know you are what you think, you get out what you put in."
What Peterson has put in, he believes, is more than what his rivals are doing. Peterson and Trent Williams have continued to add members to the workout group at their gym in Houston. As Peterson gets older, the age of newcomers stays the same. Peterson also hasn't been outworked yet.
"Every summer we have young guys that come and workout in our gym and not yet anyone outworked me. I'm talking about 21, 22 year old guys. No matter if its speed work or agility work [or] running the hill. So that right there is a good measuring stick as well. I'm talking [about] guys like Melvin Gordon (LA Chargers).
"But you know when you watch the film, I feel like there's evidence there to show that, 'Hey I've still got the bursts, acceleration and the power.' But I guess everyone doesn't feel that way and that's fine."
5. Peterson wanted to run behind this offensive line.
Because Peterson owns a training center in Houston with left tackle Trent Williams, he's heard firsthand about the makeup of the Redskins offensive line and chemistry of the team. It enticed him, running behind his old college teammate, and Peterson acknowledged the excitement of getting that opportunity on Tuesday after his first practice with the Redskins.
"I've always been a fan of the offensive line," Peterson said. "I've always talked about playing behind a good offensive line. The last couple of years kind of struggled in that department. Great head coach, a top-notch organization, so it made sense."
"Adrian is one of the most competitive people I know outside of myself," Williams said. "So, I know that he not being able to work in the capacity that he's used to working in these last couple of years, hungry is an understatement he's probably starving right now – starving to compete. I just can't wait to suit up with him and see that look in his eyes the first time we walk on that field."
Gruden joked about Williams always vouching for former Sooners but implied that the left tackle has been listened to when it comes to knowing more about the kinds of athletes the team decides to sign. In this case, regardless of Williams' affiliation, the Redskins were thoroughly impressed with Peterson's readiness at his workout.
"He's an Oklahoma, loyal, yeah whatever," Gruden said. "If it was Trent's way, we would have all Oklahoma Sooners and we'd be 0-16 every year. No, I'm just kidding! Trent, it was important since he knows him so well. I mean that does play a little bit of a factor. We do listen to Trent quite a bit. When it comes to that, it wasn't the only reason we signed him, we signed him obviously because of all the things he has accomplished in his career, and then we really signed him because of the workout and how good he looked in the workout, how explosive he was."