Derrius Guice revealed he has been cleared to play for the Washington Football Team for 2020 and, though his 2019 was hindered by injury, his top-ranked performance by Offensive Share Metric (OSM) from last year showcased just how influential he can be when healthy.
A torn meniscus and an MCL sprain limited Guice to just five games in 2019. He had also lost his entire rookie year to a torn ACL suffered in the 2018 preseason.
However, in Week 13 of last season against the Carolina Panthers, Guice displayed why Washington felt compelled to select the former LSU running back in the second round of the 2018 draft.
The significant demonstration of his talents saw him finish with the top single-game OSM grade among all running backs in the 2019 season and came in the game that saw now Washington coach Ron Rivera fired by the Panthers.
With Guice given the medical green light for 2020, Rivera will want to see performances akin to the one that cost him his job in Carolina.
Guice gets yards after contact
OSM uses the NFL’s NextGen Stats and a series of algorithms to assess a player’s influence on his offense’s production by looking at the factors only he could control.
Guice received a score of 45.43 for his efforts in Washington’s 29-21 victory over the Panthers, indicating an elite level of performance. His impact on the production of the offense could hardly have been more pronounced. He finished with 129 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, outrushing veteran Adrian Peterson, who had 13 carries for 99 yards and a score.
Each of his touchdowns were one-yard plunges on which a back of his 225-pound frame would be expected to score.
His most important contribution came in picking up yards after contact. Guice had 112 of his yards versus Carolina come after contact, an average of 11.2 yards per carry.
He did this despite facing at least eight-man boxes on six carries, per NextGen Stats. Only Patrick Laird of the Miami Dolphins met loaded boxes on a higher percentage of carries in Week 13.
The bulk of that yardage came on two carries that encapsulated what a dangerous running threat Guice can be when he is in peak physical condition.
Gaudy gains key for Washington
In the first quarter, with Washington trailing 14-0, Guice produced the key play on a drive that ended in a field goal, a quick change of his running angle, and a display of contact balance allowing him to rumble for a 60-yard gain.
Guice put Washington up 22-14 in the fourth quarter, showing the ability to get skinny through the hole and delivering a ferocious stiff arm to rumble for a 37-yard gain that he followed with his second touchdown run a play later.
Though he excelled at breaking into the open field for substantial gains against Carolina, Guice has not had frequent opportunities to showcase the speed that was evident in the pre-draft process.
If his injury problems are indeed behind him and Guice is the athlete he was coming out of LSU two years ago, his physical gifts could be a determining factor in him getting the bulk of the workload in the 2020 season.
Guice set to lead loaded backfield?
Ahead of the 2018 Draft, Guice recorded a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 7.40. RAS is a composite metric on a 0 to 10 scale based on the average of all of the percentile for each of the metrics a player completes either at the Combine or pro day.
Where Guice shone was in his speed score. He received a great composite speed grade after posting a 10-yard split of 1.55 seconds and a 40-yard dash time of 4.49 seconds.
There were flashes of his burst and long speed in Washington’s win over Carolina last season. However, it is fair to question whether Guice will have the same level of athleticism after so many injury issues in recent years.
Guice and Peterson will be the favorites to earn most of the carries for Washington in 2020 and take the pressure off quarterback Dwayne Haskins, despite the running back room being well stocked with talented options at the position.
Rookie running back-wide receiver hybrid Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, and pass-catching back J.D. McKissic are all in the backfield conversation for Washington. Bryce Love, whose career has been impacted by a torn ACL suffered prior to the 2019 draft, is also in the mix.
Yet in his top-ranked performance by OSM last year, Guice finally showed why he was considered by many to be the second-best back in the 2018 draft behind Saquon Barkley.
He endured a slide and was the seventh back off the board, but if he remains healthy and is the physical specimen he was coming into the league, Guice should claim the lead role in a crowded Washington backfield and gain consistent opportunities to punish those teams who passed on him.