RICHMOND, Va — Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden doesn’t expect to go looking for another running back after losing promising rookie Derrius Guice to a torn ACL in his left knee in the preseason opener.
“We have guys that are here and in play,” Gruden said, noting that the Redskins drafted Guice because he was the best player available in the 59th spot, “not because we weren’t satisfied with the backs we have.”
The contenders as the No. 1 back now start with Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine.
Kelley, with 16 starts in two seasons, missed most of last season with a variety of injuries but ran for 704 yards and six touchdowns in 2016. Perine made eight starts last season and became the first Redskins running back with consecutive 100-yard performances since Alfred Morris in 2013. He had 603 yards and one TD last season.
Nonetheless, the Redskins’ 90.5-yard rushing average was fifth-worst in the NFL, and Guice was looked at as a great find in the second round. Projected as a first-round pick, his stock fell amid reports of character concerns.
Gruden said none of those ever surfaced and he looks forward to Guice being 100 percent next season.
“We’re obviously very upset for Derrius. He’s put a lot of work in and (had) a very promising rookie season ahead of him, but unfortunately these injuries happen,” Gruden said. “… We had high hopes for him and what he could do for this football team and what he would accomplish his rookie year as a person and all that good stuff.”
Instead, he’s hoping Kelley, Perine or veteran third-down specialist Chris Thompson, who is recovering from a broken fibula last season, can create as much excitement.
“I’ve been impressed with both of those guys,” Gruden said about Kelley and Perine. “A lot of talk has been on Derrius and deservedly so. He’s had a great camp and OTAs, but Rob Kelley has lost a little bit of weight. He looks quicker in the hole to me and Samaje just looks more comfortable to me. He had a couple nice licks in the game the other night.”
An increased opportunity was secondary in Kelley’s mind after practice Saturday.
“It’s real tough,” Kelly said about Guice’s injury. “He brought an energy I can’t even explain to the room. I feel like everybody in the room feels a certain type of way about that. Just want to go out there and compete for him.”
Kelley, based on his own experience with injuries, also offered Guice some advice.
“I just told him to come back stronger than ever, show people what they’re missing out on,” he said.
Star linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said he learned about Guice’s status Friday when he came to the team’s practice facility, and “it kind of took me a couple of minutes to get going with my workout and whatnot. … He was the focal point of ‘Skins camp, I would say, so far. I mean, people were wondering how many yards this guy’s going to rush for and if they should pick him for their fantasy team. Things like that. People were really excited for him.”
In the interim, the season goes on, and the Redskins running backs and everyone else will get to show their stuff against a different team in the next three days as the New York Jets come to Richmond for joint workouts.
“The Jets have a great run defense. They always have,” Gruden said.
“… So, just to get a different look, different perspective on how they do things, different speed at linebacker, safeties are very, very good over there so, we have to account for them. I mean there’s a lot of things that they do differently that we’ll have to account for and it’ll be interesting to see how we adjust. So, running backs, offensive linemen, tight ends in the running game, receivers in the running game. So, I think everybody will get a good-great challenge against these guys.”
Notes: The Redskins signed tight end J.P. Holtz, linebacker Jeff Knox and defensive lineman Jalen Wilkerson, waived fullback Elijah Wellman and placed Guice and tight end Manasseh Garner on their reserve-injured list. … Gruden said defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis has a slight sprained ankle and a slight knee strain and is listed as week-to-week, but added: “Matt’s a tough guy and he’ll probably get back here tomorrow. He’s a nutjob.” … The Jets’ arrival means Terrelle Pryor will be back in Richmond. Pryor caught 20 passes last season for the Redskins, but was hobbled by injuries.
By HANK KURZ Jr. , ,Associated Press