Late last week news released that the expected start for the Washington Football Team among their running backs, Derrius Guice, was arrested on domestic abuse charges. After the news, the team subsequently released Guice and will play the 2020 season and beyond without him as a part of the organization. This is an accordance with the new culture movement Head Coach Ron Rivera is bringing to the franchise. The Washington Football Team has consistently been in news headlines throughout the years, and it has rarely been for positive feedback about the play on the field. Rivera is looking to change this, and he backs the claim with a swift and strict response to the news of Guice’s arrest.
Guice was expected to be the franchise’s leading running back for years to come when the team selected him in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, injuries and now this arrest have made Guice’s time in Washington a complete disappointment. So, with Guice out of the mix, who needs to step up for Washington this season? Who do I think has the best chance of becoming the new lead Washington running back for 2020?
Which running backs remain on the roster?
- Adrian Peterson
- Bryce Love
- Antonio Gibson
- J.D. McKissic
- Peyton Barber
Could Washington bring in a veteran running back via trade/FA?
It is doubtful that Washington would invest any future draft capital in the position so a trade is likely out of the question entirely. The only way it would be likely for them to make a move is if Carolina made Christian McCaffrey available for trade. This would be very tempting for former Panthers coaches Ron Rivera and Scott Turner. However, McCaffrey appearing on the trade block seems less likely than Washington leading the NFL in rushing yards this season.
On the other hand, it would not be totally shocked if they brought in a veteran for competition. The most likely course of action is that the team will keep the five players currently on their roster. With that being said, if a player like Devonta Freeman or Lamar Miller was willing to sign a cheap and team-friendly deal to compete for a roster spot, the team would be foolish to not consider. Even with that being said, it is unlikely that the team will bring in outside help. The next lead Washington running back is most likely already on the roster.
Which running back will take the majority of Guice’s carries?
Adrian Peterson provides a steady option
Guice was expected to be the team’s leading rusher if he could stay healthy so there will be a number of carries to go around for the rushers still on the team. The obvious answer would be veteran stalwart Adrian Peterson. Peterson took over for Guice in 2018 when Guice lost his season to a torn ACL.
Signed in the middle of the preseason, Peterson went on to rush for over 1,000 yards. It was the first time a Washington player had done so since Alfred Morris did it in 2014. He may not be the elite physical monster he was in his prime years with the Vikings, but he still has enough juice to be a productive rusher.
Bryce Love offers some upside
Peterson, however, is not the only option to take over Guice’s workload. The team drafted former Stanford star Bryce Love in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Love was widely considered the best running back in college football in 2017 when he won the Doak Walker Award as the top running back in the nation. Love rushed for over 2,118 yards and 19 touchdowns at an incredible 8.1 yards per rush. Love’s 263 carries is the least amount to reach 2,000+ yards in NCAA history.
Love has the highest upside as a pure rusher on the team. He’s as explosive as they come, with elite long speed and impressive vision. He’s not a big player, but rushes with good strength and can force himself through arm tackles. A fully healthy Love could be a great piece in Washington’s backfield.
Antonio Gibson offers an X-factor to the offense
The other likely candidate to take over a large number of carries is Antonio Gibson, Washington’s second selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. Gibson is a raw runner as he played the majority of his collegiate career as a receiver. However, Memphis started to give him snaps out of the backfield last year and he dominated. Gibson’s 4.39 40-yard-dash was tied for the fastest of all rookie running backs this upcoming season.
At Memphis, he scored 14 touchdowns on 77 career touches, good for one touchdown every 5.5 times he held the football. There will be a learning curve for Gibson as a rusher, but expect the team to find ways to get him the ball.
The outside veteran options
J.D. McKissic is the least impacted by the departure of Guice because the majority of his touches will be through the air. One of the top receiving backs in the NFL, McKissic runs routes and catches the football out of the backfield like a wide-out.
Meanwhile, Peyton Barber likely benefits the most from the situation. Barber was a workhorse for Tampa Bay in 2018 when he finished ninth in the NFL in carries. With Guice no longer on the team, Barber’s chances of making the 53-man roster increase dramatically.
Stat predictions – Washington Running Backs
- Adrian Peterson: 170 carries, 800 yards, 5 touchdowns.
- Bryce Love: 120 carries, 600 yards, 3 touchdowns.
- Antonio Gibson: 65 carries, 400 yards, 4 touchdowns.
- Peyton Barber: 30 carries, 120 yards, 1 touchdown.
- J.D. McKissic: 15 carries, 90 yards, 0 touchdowns.
- Antonio Gibson: 35 receptions, 350 yards, 3 touchdowns.
- J.D. McKissic: 30 receptions, 285 yards, 4 touchdowns.
- Adrian Peterson: 10 receptions, 115 yards, 1 touchdown.
- Bryce Love: 10 receptions, 150 yards, 2 touchdowns.
- Peyton Barber: 5 receptions,15 yards, 0 touchdowns.
The news about Guice is upsetting from both a personal and team standpoint. The team will need to replace his workload but there are plenty of mouths to feed in the meantime. Expect Peterson to receive the heaviest workload as he possesses the most experience as a lead back. Love will work off Peterson providing fresh legs as he gets used to the NFL game in his first season on the field.
Gibson will function as a weapon both on the ground and through the air. The team invested serious draft capital in him, so expect them to ensure he gets touches. Finally, McKissic will function as a pass-catching specialist while Barber provides injury insurance and an occasional drive or two a game to get the rest of the rushers a break.