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Redskins Rushing Attack - Bell-Cow or Running-Back-by-Committee?

The arrival of rookie running back Derrius Guice has excited many in Redskins Nation. Despite playing on a bad wheel most of 2017, Guice still managed to put up 1,251 rushing yards, and 11 touchdowns, and catch 18 passes for 124 yards in LSU’s prehistoric offense. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry throughout his collegiate career; often having to share time with current Jaguars star Leonard Fournette.

During the NFL combine, while still not completely recovered from his lower body injury he sustained during the season, Guice managed to run an official 4.49 40 yard dash, and jump 31.5 inches on the vertical.

NFL Network’s Bucky Brooks had this to say about Guice pre-draft:

“I think he’s the best runner in the draft. He’s not the best overall player at the position, but as a runner, it’s hard to find a better one in this class. From his balance, body control, explosiveness and strength, he can do it all with the ball in his hands. ... He finishes his runs violently and repeatedly runs through contract. That’s exactly what you want your top running backs to do.”

During LSU’s Pro Day, Guice stood on his combine numbers, but came out to work in the on-field drills mainly as a receiver, in an attempt to show NFL clubs he had natural hands.

NFL Network’s Mike Mayock said this about Guice after his Pro Day workout:

“He spent most of the running back drills lining up all over the field, as a wide receiver, slot, running back. His point was, ‘I’ve got natural hands and I can run routes.’ I think he proved his point today and helped himself,” Mayock said, via “He can play all three downs.”

There was absolutely no doubt that Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was the headliner of a stellar 2018 running back class, as the “once in a generational talent” at running back (as echoed by many draft analysts), went number two overall to the Giants. There was some debate over who may be the second running back off the board after Barkley, but there was little doubt about which runner has the most talent after superman was selected at two overall.

Guice was seen by most as a first round talent, and the second best pure running back in this class, however some off-field concerns dropped the LSU star to pick number 59 overall. The Redskins, who were in desperate need of a true bell-cow back to help ignite their struggling running game, stayed patient after trading back in the draft with the 49ers, and still got their man.

Guice now enters a backfield headed by the pedestrian Rob Kelley, second-year former Oklahoma star Samaje Perine and the dynamic Chris Thompson. If the Redskins keep four running backs on the 53-man roster, these are the four many see as the most logical - although some suggest youngsters Byron Marshall or Kapri Bibbs could un-seat either Kelly or Perine in an effort to give the team a more complete back to back-up Thompson in his third down role.

With Guice’s 3-down ability and dynamic and battering running style, are the Redskins better to go with Guice as a true bell-cow back, or continue to use a true running back-by-committee approach?

Prior to the 2004 NFL season, head coach Joe Gibbs traded star cornerback Champ Bailey and a second round pick in that year’s draft to the Denver Broncos for third-year stud running back Clinton Portis. Portis, who was coming off back-to-back 1500 yard seasons, was a dynamic three-down back who had the speed to take in to the house any time he touched the ball, the power to run between the tackles, the hands to catch the ball effectively, and the willingness to sacrifice his body as a blocker.

Portis would go on to play seven seasons in Burgundy and Gold, rushing for 6,824 yards and 46 touchdowns, and adding 176 receptions for 1,340 yards and 3 touchdowns in the passing game. He sits second all-time on the Redskins career rushing list behind only John Riggins.

Since Portis retired after the 2010 season (technically even before that, as Portis was beginning to wear down after 2008), the Redskins have not had a true bell-cow, 3-down running back. Subsequently, the running game has had its ups and downs.

Enter Derrius Guice...

Guice certainly has the ability to be the home-run threat that the Redskins have been lacking in the backfield for years. At 5’11” 224 pounds, Guice also has the size and ferocity to be a battering-ram between the tackles. His combination of speed, burst vision, patience and toughness makes him a nightmare for defenses.

Although LSU’s offense was not pass-happy, or very complex, Guice still showed he has the hands necessary to keep defenses honest when he’s in the game. He can split out wide, line up in the slot, or come out of the backfield and play a prominent role in the passing attack.

His nose for the goalline in short yardage situations will be a welcome addition to an offense that has struggled greatly in the redzone, and his prowess for picking up the tough yards will benefit the team on third and short.

To put it best, Guice should step into the NFL and immediately assert himself as one of the most complete and dangerous backs in the league.

On the other side of this discussion we have the sledge-hammer Samaje Perine and the dynamic Chris Thompson. The former began to show a bit of promise half way through his rookie season, going for back-to-back 100 yard games against the Saints (117 yards) and Giants (100 yards), before the Redskins offensive line was ravaged by injury. The latter was on his way to a career season before a freak injury ended his 2018 campaign.

Both of these players bring a little something different to the table, and this, combined with Guice, should keep defenses on their toes all season.

If the Redskins spread the touches between these three backs, not only will they be able to keep guys fresh in this three-headed rotation, but they will also be able to maximize each individual’s talents, while putting their offense in the best possible shape they can be in to put points on the board.

Having a veteran like Kelley on the roster as well, will give Jay Gruden some more options in short-yardage, or maybe even as a situational fullback. If the team opts to keep either Marshall or Bibbs over Kelley, it could take some pressure off of Chris Thompson as the team’s only true third down weapon.

Touches could be split something like this (assuming we have around 30-32 touches per game to RB’s):

Guice - 12-15 per game

Thompson - 6-8 per game

Perine - 5-8 per game

Kelley/Marshall/Bibs - 5-7 per game

With Guice now added to the running back rotation, and Thompson returning healhy, the Redskins are in a very good position for the first time in what seems like years. Whether they decide on a running-back-by-committee approach, or choose to go with a more bell-cow-back type of offense (Steelers, Cardinals, Rams, etc), we should see significant improvements over what we have in the recent past.


What would you like the Redskins rushing offense to look like in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    Guice as the bell-cow back, with Thompson giving the offense a nice change-of-pace weapon
    (1128 votes)
  • 16%
    Guice, Perine/Kelly splitting carries on early downs, with Thompson in a third-down roll
    (265 votes)
  • 11%
    True running-back-by-committee approach - going with the hot hand
    (176 votes)
1569 votes total Vote Now