In the coming weeks, Redskins.com will be interviewing position coaches about younger players who have made significant contributions so far this season. Here's who we've interviewed so far:
This week's conversation is with running backs coach Randy Jordan on the potential of second-year running back Derrius Guice.
Knee injuries detailed the first year-and-a-half of Guice's career, but he's fully healthy now and performing like the Redskins anticipated when they drafted him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. His best showing came in Carolina on Dec. 1 when he rushed for 129 yards and 10 carries -- good for an unheard-of 12.9 yards per attempt -- and two touchdowns in the Redskins' 29-21 win.
Question: When did you first see Derrius Guice and what were your first impressions?
Randy Jordan: The first initial impression and the first time I ever got a chance to evaluate Derrius is probably at the combine. Having conversations with him there and evaluating his tape, I knew he had plenty of athleticism. But the mental and the character is where I wanted to dig deep.
My first impression was physically, he's talented. Mentally, he's got what I call a type A personality, meaning he wants to compete. He wants the ball and then as I got to know him, he's very impatient, at least in terms of wanting to know what he has on a play.
He wants everything now, and it's not a negative. He's a typical, what do you call it, millennial kids I guess, young adults. I said it's a process; you can't get to the end of the process without going through the middle and the beginning. From that standpoint, that's what he's kind of all about.
Q: How did his injuries and working through those injuries impact him?
Jordan: I think first of all, it got him opportunities just to digest the offense. On paper and in the classroom, he's done all the mental stuff. But now the thing is can he transfer what he's seeing on tape to him being able to physically making that hard cut on a mid zone or a wide zone? Is his eye progression good on protection? Now he has to transfer that.
I think what it's done is made him appreciate the ability to play the game, that it's something that can be taken away from you in a split second because of the possibility of injury.
I think the other thing is it gave him a deep respect for some of the guys that are in there, like an Adrian Peterson or Chris Thompson or [Wendell Smallwood]. He watches them and he's not part of the group. It's what Adrian had to go through last year -- he was banged up -- and he's been a great example of just work ethic, keeping himself healthy and having a process.
That's a thing I've seen that [Guice has] really gotten over the last couple of years that he wasn't able to play. He's developed a process in the way he goes about the game."
Q: Was there a moment when it might've clicked for Guice where he was taking what he saw on film and implementing it into the game?
Jordan: I think when he first came back [from injury], I do look at one particular play. I was like, "Hey man, this guy, it's transferring for him."
It was this past week when he broke the one-back power play, even though he's one of the first players to get a minus and a plus on a 60-yard run. We talked about it all week, about [Luke Kuechly] reading pullers. When a guy pulled, Kuechly would just go. He would actually be running with the puller, and with that aggression he would over scrape or go over the top, so you gotta be ready to get the ball back in behind him.
Sure enough, [Guice] felt 59 scrape over the top. He was able to get up underneath it and made a guy miss and was able to make a big play in the game. He comes back and he tells me verbally, he says, "Coach, he scraped. I did exactly what we talked about in the meeting."
And those are the type of instances where for me as a coach it's gratifying.
Q: Why did Guice also get a minus on that 60-yard run?
Jordan: Yeah, he had a plus and a minus. He made a guy miss and then he finished the run with physicality, not running out of bounds, all those things.
But he took the wrong footwork. Up until today, this is the type of guy he is. I said, "You get a plus and a minus on the same play," and he said, "Coach, if I would've took the footwork you're coaching me, I would've never made that cut."
That's the one thing that's so cool about him is that he's a smart player. But he always has an opinion that he thinks is always right. I would never try to change him, but there are times where I'm like, "Hey man, I'm the coach, and this is how we're going to do it." And he comes back and he's like, "Coach, you're right." We have that type of relationship.
Q: Do you think that if he had the right footwork, he still would have broken the big run?
Jordan: I would never admit that to him, but I think I've told him this, "I think it would've slowed you down a little bit, you may not have hit the hole as fast."
He was quick to get downhill with the footwork he had, his track was the same, his footwork would've been the same. Instead of a half second he maybe would've been one second slower in terms of hitting the hole.
Q: How does he continue to develop knowing he's tasted success?
Jordan: I have a saying -- "you're only as good as your last carry" -- and I believe that you're only as good as your last play. So, I always tell him to live in the moment. He literally understands how this sport can be taken away from you in a heartbeat.
I always tell him, "success is only rented, and the rent is due everyday." That's the way I look at it. "You've only rented success, chief, you don't own it. You gotta earn that sucker everyday."
And if you have that mindset, work ethic, putting in the time watching tape, doing the things that you're coached to do, getting better at your craft, studying up the good players, you'll eventually get better and you'll continue to have success.
I'm always trying to find something that irritates him or any of the players. I'll give you an instance: we always talk about finishing runs. Sometimes he doesn't want to finish or maybe somebody else doesn't want to finish, I will praise the guy that's finishing, like, "great finish AP, great job man. Chris Thompson that's a great job. Hey, [Wendell Smallwood], that's a great job man."
And then he's like, "what about me coach?" And I go, "I'm not saying your name for a reason." So, it's just a way of trying to continue to motivate the guys and play a little bit of mind games.
Q: What specifically does Derrius add to the Redskins' offense. What does he provide to the team overall?
Jordan: He's got physicality as a runner and he's got really good contact balance. You can block it for three [yards] he may get you eight [yards]. You can block for eight, he may get you 20.
His ability to run through tackles, his ability to have enough burst to get to the second and third level, the ability to run away from defenders and then his ability to catch the ball. He catches the ball really easy, and I think that part of him will continue to grow as he continues to grow in the offense.
The other thing that I see when he comes in the game is that he has a genuine enthusiasm for football. He just [really] wants to play, he wants to play the game. Obviously with the stiff arm of Shaq Thompson that ignites everybody and it's infectious, guys feed off that. I always try to tell my running backs, "hey, it takes a big-time play to let everybody be juiced. Let it be you." That's the thing he does, he provides a spark not as a runner or as a player catching the ball, but just the way he goes about it. You look at him and you're like this guy he just wants to play, like a little kid.
Q: How good can Derrius be?
Jordan: Like any player, you have a decision to make: do you want to be good, do you want to be solid, do you want to be average, do you to want to be elite?
When I think of an elite player, I'm thinking like a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods. I even think about Adrian Peterson. ...Those are elite players, and I think he has a chance to be one of those guys.
Number one is consistency. Can you do it over a period of time? do you have the durability to do it over a period of time?
The second thing of an elite player -- because I think he can be -- is can you change the game? Michael Jordan changed the game and how it was played, Reggie White, he changed the game. I think he has the skillset where he can change the position, where people are saying "hey man, I'm looking for a Derrius Guice type, I'm looking for a Marshall Faulk type." When you say that, it provokes a certain type of player that has had success over a long period of type and can impact the game.
Then the last thing I think more than anything else -- like I said over and over again, I think he has a chance to be elite -- is being at his position a first- second- and third-down back. He has the hands. Now part of that is learning protections, understanding where safeties and nickels rotate and being able to break a defender down like a [Christian McCaffrey], Marshall Faulk type.
He has the potential, but he has to work at it. He has all that at his disposal. I think the thing is that he has elite traits, but it takes work for him to get to that.
Q: In what ways would Guice evolve to where he'd change the entire running back position?
Jordan: I think the biggest thing is when you look at him, he has the power of a Marshawn Lynch in my opinion. I mean we've seen that. He has really soft hands like a Chris Thompson that can catch the ball. He can run all the routes, and that's what to me makes him unique.
To me he has the potential to be in on first, second and third down where in the NFL it's come to the point where running backs have been slotted: he's a first- and second-down back, he's a pass-catching back, he's a pass-protecting back.
I think he has the girth and strength to be able to protect. It's just a matter of learning the protections and knowing where he's going, having good eye progression and being consistent enough where we can count on you when we're getting a will free safety and we're making a protection call and you're on the right guy or being able to adjust to something you've never seen before because you can just plug [your rules] in your formula. Even though we didn't go through that, I can go over my rules and know I'm supposed to block that guy and where everybody else is going.
That's what made Marshall Faulk unique. Marshall Faulk knew every position. He knew where the receivers were supposed to be, where the linemen were supposed to be, who's supposed to be pulling for who.
If [Guice] continues to study the game, he'll be able to play faster, he'll be able to play quicker. He'll be able to get to holes much more readily because he's like, "hey man, if he pulls, I know this guy is gonna spill." Or like on the play [against the Panthers], he knew just from film study that, "hey man, this guy scrapes over the top, I'm gonna hit this thing right behind him." He trusts it and he did it.