2019 was a year full of turmoil and angst for our beloved Washington Redskins. The team tied the modern day franchise record for least wins in a season with just three. Two coaches were relieved of their duties - one during the season and one at season’s end. Our star left tackle held out until he was essentially forced back by rules under the prior CBA - then was placed on the NFI inactive list for the remainder of the season. And, injuries, as they usually do for our team, claimed the seasons of some promising young players.
One of those young, promising players was former Stanford star running back Bryce Love - although his story was a bit different.
Love was a highly recruited running back coming out of high school. He chose Stanford over dozens of other offers because of their mix of strong academics and competitive power-five football with a run-first mentality. The speedster spent his freshman and sophomore years backing up All-World running back Christian McCaffrey. When he finally got his chance as a junior in 2017, he did not disappoint.
Love broke out in a big way, rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns, while averaging over 8 yards per carry. He won the Doak Waker Award, given to the Nation’s best running back, and finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting. Had he decided to enter the draft as a junior, he’d likely been a first round pick. Instead, Bryce decided to return to Stanford for his senior season, and to complete his degree.
As luck would have it, Love suffered a torn ACL in his final collegiate game for the Cardinals. Not only was the injury bad, but the timing of the injury made it worse for his NFL dreams. He was unable to work out at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine or Stanford’s Pro Day, and his draft stock took a hit in April. He was selected by the Redskins in the fourth round (112th overall).
2019 turned out to be a redshirt year for the former Stanford star, as the team placed him on the reserve/non-football injury list before the start of the season. That may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the soon-to-be 23 year old, though.
By the time he hits the field this summer, he will be a year and a half removed from his knee injury, and only entering year two of a team friendly four year, 3.275 million dollar deal.
The running back room in D.C. is far from settled. Adrian Peterson is the vocal leader and veteran of the group, but the 35 year old former All-Pro is in the twilight of his career, and may be best used in a committee approach where he can get his touches but still be kept fresh and healthy. Third year bully Derrius Guice, a fan-favorite of many diehard Skins fans, has dealt with injuries the past two seasons, and some have even questioned his longevity in the league. When healthy, he’s a bull in a China shop, but because good health has eluded him for the past two seasons, confidence has dwindled.
The Redskins did draft former Memphis “weapon” Antonio Gibson, who is expected to contribute as both a running back and receiver in Scott Turner’s new offense. Gibson brings a unique skill-set to the Redskins, as he can basically line up all over the formation in order to create mismatches against opposing defenses. He may not be a pure running back in that sense of the word, but he absolutely fits the modern day NFL.
Aside from the previous three running backs mentioned, the Redskins signed former Buccaneer Peyton Barber and former Lion J.D. McKissic to compete in a crowded, yet overall unproven backfield.
Of all the running backs on the roster, Bryce Love may have most intriguing skill-set. Standing 5’9” and weighing a solid 205 pounds, Love possesses rare burst/acceleration and exceptional long-speed. He was consistently clocked in the low-to-mid 4.3’s at Stanford, and was a world-class sprinter in high school. Despite what some would consider a “slender” build for a running back, Love never pigeon-holed himself as a scat-back. At Stanford, in their power rushing attack, Love thrived running up the middle on traps, ISO’s and leads. Despite his amazing speed, he showcased patience and power when the situation dictated it. Many have compared him to a stronger, more physical version of Jamaal Charles, and that comparison seems very fair when evaluating his college tape.
If he's healthy, Bryce Love is going to be a steal in the draft. This run against Notre Dame (2018) exemplifies his ability to string moves together and explode through the second-level: pic.twitter.com/GCrghUvAFf— Graham Barfield (@GrahamBarfield) April 15, 2019
Stanford RB Bryce Love balance, power, and speed through contact: pic.twitter.com/0gWXdCXHKj— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) November 4, 2017
In a interview with Redskins’ reporter Kyle Stackpole back in March, Love said he was on track to be a full participant in training camp this summer. You can see that interview here.
Despite this promising prognosis, many fans have already written Love off in the running back competition this fall. I, however, am one who hasn’t.
I believe a healthy Love can add something this team has not had in decades at the position - SPEED!
With Peterson nearing retirement, questions surrounding Guice’s availability due to his past injury history, and no proven bell-cows behind either player, a healthy Bryce Love could enter training camp a relative unknown, and emerge as the franchise back many envisioned he could eventually become after his stellar junior season at Stanford.
Can Bryce Love become RB1 for the Redskins?
This poll is closed
Yes - He has the best skill-set of any of our RB’s
No - He’s best as part of a rotation
He won’t make the team in 2020