The Washington Football Team running backs in 2020 make up one of the deepest backfields in the entire NFL. It’s one of the deepest positions on the roster. The issue is that they lack an alpha to take on the load. However, a fully healthy season from Derrius Guice could fix that. They have the always consistent Adrian Peterson, who provides a safety blanket and veteran leadership for a young backfield.
Behind those two backs, they drafted Bryce Love in the fourth round of the 2019 draft and Antonio Gibson in the early third round of the 2020 draft. Both players will be active pieces of the Washington backfield this year. The team also brought in two veterans this free agency in J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber, however, expect just one of them to make it onto the final roster.
Washington Running Backs
Far and away the most talented player in the backfield, Guice has the talent to be an elite RB1 in the NFL. If he can stay fully healthy, he has a legitimate chance to be one of the leagues leading rushers.
His 5.2 yards per carry last season would’ve finished third of all running backs had he not been injured for half the year. His game against Carolina displayed the kind of dominance he can have on NFL defenses, gaining 129 yards on just 10 carries, with 112 of those yards coming after contact. A full season of Guice could have major implications on Washington’s offense in 2020.
Signed as an emergency safety blanket when Guice was lost for his rookie season, Peterson has been the most productive Washington running back over the past two seasons. Averaging just shy of 1,000 yards a season, he has been one of the best free agency signings Washington has made in years.
His veteran leadership and experience are invaluable to a backfield dominated by young players. On the field, he is always out there, making plays and running hard for the team. While he may not be at the height of his powers anymore, Washington’s coaching staff can feel safe in the knowledge that when he enters the game they will get 100% effort.
As the highest-drafted offensive player from Washington’s most recent draft class, it is clear the team has high hopes for Gibson. Gibson was widely considered a late day two or early day three selection, but Washington decided to invest major draft capital in Gibson picking him 66th overall, the second selection in the third round.
Some felt like this may have been a reach due to a lack of volume production in college, but Gibson was one of the most electric players in the nation. He scored a touchdown every 5.5 touches during his time at Memphis and blurs the line between running back and wide receiver. Expect offensive coordinator Scott Turner to utilize Gibson all over the field, producing as both a rusher and receiver.
One of the most exciting running backs in college football history, Love was a Heisman level player his junior year at Stanford, rushing for 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns while averaging over eight yards per carry. Love suffered a major injury in his last collegiate season and spent 2019 on the injured reserve, but he should be a full go for this season. Love provides a great change of pace and should find work alternating with Guice and Peterson.
Similar to Gibson, McKissic blurs the line between running back and receiver. He has phenomenal hands and is an impressive route runner for a RB. This likely stems from his time playing receiver in college. Expect McKissic to be the final RB to make the roster, but if Gibson shows that he is able to shoulder the load of the receiving work, McKissic could prove unnecessary.
The other veteran Washington running back that was brought in this off-season, Barber seems to have the least likely chance to make the team. His physical skill-set is similar to that of Peterson, but with worse vision and less experience in the NFL, that similarity makes him somewhat redundant.
Barber had a decently productive season in 2018, largely thanks to volume. However, his yards per carry numbers have been declining year on year since entering the league. It is hard to envision Barber being a future for the team and he could be the casualty of this group heading into the season.