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It’s too early to bet against Samaje Perine

We may be seeing a career renaissance for this 23-year-old, 3rd year running back

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

About six weeks ago, in mid-June, I published an article that was aimed at de-constructing Jay Gruden’s press conferences. The last section of that article talked about Samaje Perine and his... unusual... relationship with Coach Jay Gruden.

Now that we’ve dialed in a little bit on how to interpret Jay’s offseason comments, let’s look at some of the things he’s been saying.

Samaje Perine

6 June:

I think Samaje [Perine] really has been the guy that has been most impressive. He’s been out here taking all the reps. He’s really improved in not only the running game, but also in the passing game.

11 June:

We still want to run the ball. Hand the ball to Adrian [Peterson], [Derrius] Guice and Samaje [Perine]. It’s about spreading the ball around and everybody taking advantage when their number is called.”

I confess to be a bit stumped about what Jay is thinking about Samaje Perine when looked at the context of their history together.

NFL: Washington Redskins-Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Initially, I was thinking that Jay might simply be pumping out the sunshine and lollipops about Samaje as part of an organizational effort to prop up any potential trade value that Perine might have, but I’m starting to wonder if, perhaps, the running back and his head coach may have had a heart-to-heart talk at the end of the ‘18 season, and if Jay might not have re-committed to giving the young man a chance to make the roster.

Perine may end up being one of the two or three most interesting players to watch during training camp.

Well, here we are at training camp, and I’m not the only one who’s noticed Jay’s continued positivity regarding the running back whose name, for a long time, couldn’t be mentioned without being connected to the phrase, “in Jay Gruden’s doghouse”.

A reporter in Saturday’s press conference asked Jay why he has been so positive about Perine.

Here’s how Jay resonded:

“Why so much praise?

I mean, I like Samaje!

Samaje had a tough road playing behind Adrian [Peterson] last year. I think he’s a young back, with a great talent skillset, [and he’s] powerful.

I haven’t gotten him the reps — that’s on me mostly. We haven’t got him in a game.

Usually, when we dress three running backs, you like to have your first & second-down back, and then you’ve got to have Chris [Thompson], your third-down back. Then, you have somebody that can do a little bit of both, you know? In case one of them gets hurt. That’s why Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall were our third backs last year.

[Perine] just didn’t get a chance to dress a whole lot, but the way he looked in OTAs and the way he’s come out here, I think he’s in great shape. He’s strong and I like the way he’s running.”

Watching the press conference live, I didn’t get the feeling that Jay was just mouthing the words. This looked like one more in a long string of mea culpas that indicate that Gruden has had a change of heart about Perine since he rather unceremoniously benched him in his rookie season of 2017.

I saw a John Keim roster prediction the other day, and there was Samaje Perine’s name:

RUNNING BACK (4): Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine

They’ll also have Bryce Love, though he’ll likely be on the [NFI] list. But he could be added later in the year. With health questions surrounding Guice and also with Peterson’s age, Perine (or Byron Marshall) could end up sticking one more year.

Honestly, last off-season I thought the Redskins should have been trying to trade Perine before Jay Gruden burned up all of his value. There were times during the season where I predicted that he would never see another snap in a Redskins uniform. He had the feel of an animal that should just be put out of its misery with a quick gunshot.

But I’ve turned nearly a full 180 degrees on Perine, and it’s all based on Jay Gruden’s continued positive enthusiasm about the player. Somehow, he seems redeemed in Jay’s eyes, and that fills me with confidence that John Keim is probably right.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson will likely see no more than a half-dozen snaps in the pre-season.

Derrius Guice will likely get very light work —- I would imagine no more than 15 or 20 carries total in three games.

Instead, I think Jay Gruden is gonna hand the ball to Samaje Perine a lot.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

If Perine stinks up the joint or if he fumbles, then all bets are off.

But if he shows well, then the Redskins will either keep him as the 4th running back, with Bryce Love stashed on the NFI list for at least half the season, or trade Perine for draft picks if injuries bite another team who then comes calling.

Whether it’s with the Redskins or another team, there seems to be a very good chance that Samaje Perine will see the field more in 2019.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Reports of the death of his NFL career may have been slightly exaggerated.