ASHBURN — Redskins running back Adrian Peterson understood the Cardinals’ decision to release him in March. After all, Arizona, he said, had a healthy David Johnson returning from a wrist injury that kept him sidelined for all but one game in 2017.
Johnson, the focal point of Arizona’s offense, made Peterson expendable.
But eventually, Peterson found work, signing with the Redskins in late August. The Redskins running back will start in Week 1 against his former team — and many are curious to see how many carries Peterson will receive on Sunday afternoon.
Peterson said he told his coaches he was ready for a heavy workload, if that’s what they wanted.
“They were like, how many times do you think you can do it in a game?” Peterson said. “I’m like, how many times do you want? You want 30? You want 15? You want 40? Whatever it takes.”
Peterson said he feels caught up to speed despite joining the Redskins three weeks ago. In his only taste of preseason action, the former MVP still looked capable of being a lead back — rushing for 56 yards on 11 attempts.
Under coach Jay Gruden, the Redskins have a tendency to run often on first-and-10, which would bold well for Peterson. Last season, according to Warren Sharp of Sharp Football analysis, the Redskins ran 62 percent of the time on first-and-10.
But the Redskins were ineffective on the down, averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, according to Sharp. Washington hopes Peterson can help them be better, but the veteran averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on first down last season.
Peterson has blamed his offensive lines in New Orleans and Arizona for his underwhelming stats. In 2017, the 33-year-old averaged just 3.4 yards per carry in 10 games with the Saints and the Cardinals.
Peterson said the line play is better with the Redskins. For instance, if he receives 40 carries, he says it’s likely to feel “like 20 behind these guys.” (A running back has not received 40 carries in a game since Shaun Alexander did it with the Seahawks in 2006, so don’t get your hopes up, fantasy owners).
So what type of workload will Peterson realistically see? It depends on the feel of the game, Gruden said.
The Redskins coach, though, said he has been impressed with Peterson since the running back’s arrival.
“These guys are pretty good against the run,” Gruden said of the Cardinals. “They like to stack the box also. It’s a matter of how we’re blocking and the big thing is, like I said, staying out of third and long. But sometimes you have to risk that to try and pound the rock a couple times on first and second down.
“We’ll see, you know, I think he just got here. We feel good about his talent, his skill set, but we also feel good about Rob Kelley, Samaje [Perine] and Chris [Thompson].”
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