Training Camp Preview - Running Backs

Bryan Manning

The defensive line is the Washington Football Team’s deepest — and most talented — position as we begin training camp. However, one could argue that the running back position is the deepest and most talented on the offensive side of the ball. 

The running back group is led by a couple of holdovers in veteran Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice, who is entering his third season in the NFL.

What more can be said about Peterson? One of the greatest running backs of all time, Peterson signed with Washington in August 2018 after Guice was injured in the preseason.

Peterson would go on to rush for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns that season. He started all 16 games for Washington.

In 2019, Peterson would once again lead Washington in rushing. He finished with 898 yards and five touchdowns. He likely would have gone over the 1,000-yard mark if not for a questionable decision by former coach Jay Gruden to deactivate Peterson for the Week 1 game against Philadelphia.

The ageless Peterson is now No. 5 in NFL history in rushing yards and is just 132 yards short of the No. 3 spot on the all-time list. He is No. 4 all-time in rushing touchdowns.

After missing his rookie season, Guice finally saw the field in 2019. And, he was impressive. Unfortunately, injuries once again ruined Guice’s season.

Guice suffered a torn meniscus in his debut game in Week 1, forcing him to miss the next nine games. He returned in Week 11, rushing for 24 and scoring his first career touchdown on a 45-yard pass from Dwayne Haskins.

Two weeks later, against Ron Rivera’s Carolina Panthers, Guice had a career day. He ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries. Guice would sprain his MCL the following week and the team placed him on injured reserve.

With Chris Thompson gone, free-agent pickup J.D. McKissic should be Washington’s third-down back. Entering his fifth year out of Arkansas State (Red Wolves), McKissic signed a two-year deal in the offseason.

McKissic brings excitement to the passing game and he is quite the change of pace from Guice and Peterson.

Another newcomer to the backfield is veteran Peyton Barber. Barber is a big, durable between-the-tackles back who has played 59 out of a possible 60 games in his career. He spent the first four years of his NFL career with Tampa Bay where he rushed for 1,967 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Barber has starting experience, but will clearly be behind Guice and Peterson on the depth chart.

Next up is second-year back Bryce Love. A fourth-round rookie a year ago, Love missed his rookie season as he recovered from knee surgery. A former Heisman contender at Stanford, Love has the pure ability to be a featured back.

But how healthy is he?

There has been a lot of talk this offseason about Love’s health. If he is healthy, he will likely battle Barber for the final spot at running back. Love offers more versatility and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football.

Antonio Gibson is the wild card. The third-round pick is a big play waiting to happen, but is he a running back or a wide receiver?

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The speedster from Memphis did both in college and Turner really wanted Gibson in the draft. Gibson has elite speed and is built like a running back. The concern over him at receiver is his route running.

Gibson is obviously a roster lock. However, Washington’s plans for him could affect Barber and/or Love.

Unfortunately for some of these players on the bubble, the lack of preseason will be tough to overcome.

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Josh Ferguson, a 5-foot-10, 205-pounder from Illinois, rounds out Washington’s running back room for training camp. 

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Bryan Manning writes about the Washington Football Team for 'Washington Football' and contributes to "All Hokies" on SI.com. He has covered the NFL, MLB, NBA, college football and college basketball for almost 10 years for various outlets such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, FanSided, USA Today SMG, and others. For his day job, Bryan works in engineering for a major communications company. 

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
Chris  Russell
Chris Russell

Editor

This position is clearly the strength of the Washington offense yet has so many questions. Randy Jordan, the longtime RB coach got me even further excited for this group on Friday AM. I would expect RB's to be a lot more involved in the natural screen game.


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