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Versatility has been a buzz word heard often from Washington Coach Ron Rivera and his coaching staff since the NFL Draft in April when the team added players with a variety of skillsets at their positions. We found out on Friday just how committed Rivera is to versatility and production from his newcomers when the team surprisingly announced the release of running back Adrian Peterson.
“First off, I made the decision today because Adrian deserved his day,” Rivera said. “This is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. For him to be treated any other way than that, I was going to struggle with that. It’s not about what he hasn’t done or anything like that, but it’s about what this group of backs has shown us, especially in the way that the offense has headed. This is what it’s really about.”
During Peterson’s two seasons with Washington, he was one of the highest performing running backs, breaking multiple records and also amassing 37 receptions for 1,940 yards. As training camp came to a close, it was widely believed that Peterson would be heading into week one as a member of the Washington Football Team.
But as Dwayne Haskins became more comfortable with the offensive system the team wanted to implement, tough decisions had to be made. Especially with running back being one of the most crowded positions on the roster, even with the release of Derrius Guice a few weeks ago.
With Peterson no longer in the picture, Washington still has several options to choose from between Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Bryce Love and Peyton Barber. All of whom surged in the last few days of camp.
“You saw a lot of quality stuff from J.D., from Peyton, from Antonio and you see Bryce perform the way he has, especially in the last week to ten days,” Rivera shared. “Like I said, I watched a little bit of obviously what we’re doing on the offense and you see some of the things that really turned out well. What you want to do is really be realistic about certain issues with it. Again, it was not just about Antonio’s development but with the rest of the guys with what we’re doing.”
Moving forward, the team wants to use more two-running back sets and have the ability to be creative on offense. Although Peterson was immensely talented, he was a ground and pound runner that didn’t fit into Rivera’s vision for a multidimensional offense.
“The hard part is that now people game plan and say: ‘Hey this is what they’re going to do with this guy [Peterson].’ Now you look at these other guys and now they have to game plan completely different. Well, now you also have to practice differently,” Rivera explained. “This was really about what these other guys were doing for us. I think it allows us to go in the direction we feel good about.”
As for Peterson, Rivera stated: “The guy’s got football left in him. I will tell you that.”
Peterson’s next steps remain uncertain but there’s no doubt he has enough left in the tank to be an asset to another team. As for Washington, they’re relying on their unproven running back room to lead them into the future.