- The rookie running back is out for the season with a torn ACL. Where does Washington turn now?
It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the 2018 NFL season. The first night of the first full week of preseason action claimed one of the league’s most intriguing rookies, and threw an entire backfield into question.
Derrius Guice left Washington’s first preseason game after six carries with what was first described as a sprained MCL. An MRI taken Friday revealed that Guice tore his ACL, knocking him out for the entire 2018 season. This is a huge blow to a Washington offense that was expecting big things from Guice, the No. 59 overall pick in this year’s draft.
At the very least, Guice was going to dominate early-down work for the Redskins. He was routinely taken among the top-40 picks in early drafts this summer, and had an average draft position higher than Alex Collins, Jay Ajayi and Lamar Miller. Chris Thompson, who’s still rehabbing a fractured fibula that ended his 2017 season last November, was always going to be the team’s primary receiving back, a role that should net him somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 targets. Now, he’ll likely pick up some extra carries, too. Thompson got 64 carries in his 10 games last year, and could be looking at a similar number of rushes per game with Guice out for the season.
The rest of the running back depth chart leaves much to be desired. Rob Kelley, Samaje Perine and Kapri Bibbs will spend the rest of the preseason jockeying for position, though Kelley already appears to have a lead over the other two. He started the team’s first preseason game ahead of Guice, running for six yards on four carries. Head coach Jay Gruden talked him up at the same time he was gushing over Guice, so it’s likely that Kelley has the inside track to the starting gig.
Perine had been mentioned as a possible cut earlier this summer, and while that’s unlikely to happen now, it should give us an idea as to what the coaching staff thinks of him. He got seven carries in Washington’s preseason debut after Kelley and Guice were done for the night, totaling 31 yards. Bibbs, meanwhile, got all four of his carries in the second half, racking up 48 yards. He played sparingly last year, and likely won’t see his role increase that much as a result of Guice’s injury.
Kelley may be the starter, but it’s hard to get excited about him in fantasy leagues, beyond the volume guarantee inherent to being a starter. After providing some fantasy value two seasons ago, he turned in 62 mostly uninspiring carries last year, running for 194 yards and three touchdowns. He goes from irrelevant to middle-late-round fodder as a depth running back, but it’ll be hard to expect much from him.
If anyone is a winner from a fantasy perspective here, it’s Alex Smith. Guice’s injury likely puts an even greater emphasis on Washington’s passing game, especially considering the creative ways in which Gruden can try to replicate the run game with passes to Thompson, Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed.