LANDOVER, Md. — On a first-quarter run up the middle, Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson spotted Denver Broncos linebacker Todd Davis in the hole. So Peterson did what he once did so often: He turned trouble into a long gain. Peterson used a jump cut to bounce outside, then cut once more for a 13-yard gain.
In an otherwise bad half for Washington, its new running back — trying to revive his career at age 33 — stood out.
Peterson finished with 11 carries for 56 yards in one half of action, showing Washington a lot of what it wanted to see in an otherwise ugly 29-17 preseason loss. He displayed some explosion and showed an ability to carry the ball on consecutive drives. He even converted a fourth-and-inches down with a 15-yard dash around the left end, getting a key block from someone even older — 34-year-old Vernon Davis.
Adrian Peterson finished with 11 carries for 56 yards in one half of action for Washington on Friday night. Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Peterson also might have shown that he’s the best first- and second-down running back on the roster.
For the Redskins, it was about seeing what sort of load Peterson can handle. For Peterson, it was just a chance to get some work.
“My body feels good right now,” he said. “We’ll see how I feel when I wake up in the morning. But I felt like I responded well. My legs felt good, I didn’t get tired, so the cardio is where it needs to be. And right now I just look at it as knocking a little rust off.”
Peterson carried more times Friday than he had in his previous six preseasons combined.
“So many years I’ve begged to play in the preseason and I’ve been shut down. They didn’t have to beg me at all to play this week,” he said.
“It was very critical, especially this third preseason game, to get out there and get a feel. Not only just for me, but to get something on film so we can go back. I was communicating with the offensive line and they were like, ‘Hey, we gotta be a little faster on this play; it’s a different speed.’ So I think we’ll learn a lot from it.”
The Redskins signed Peterson on Monday, wanting to see if he could unseat either Rob Kelley or Samaje Perine for the starting job. It’s not as if the rest of the offense was humming Friday night. The Redskins’ passing game struggled as starting quarterback Alex Smith completed just 3 of 8 passes for 33 yards.
Instead, the first half was about seeing what Peterson could do. The Redskins wanted to see his explosion, how he handled consecutive carries and his vision.
He started the game in the I formation, gaining 7 yards running up the middle. But that series ended in a three-and-out, so it wasn’t until the Redskins’ next drive that Peterson showed more.
It wasn’t always big gains. He gained nothing on his first carry of the Redskins’ second drive before a 13-yarder. However, that was followed by consecutive gains of 1 yard. On that drive, Peterson carried the ball seven straight times for a total of 28 yards. There was one flashy run and six workmanlike carries.
“I saw a big guy running pretty hard,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “The thing I liked about some of his runs is, he looked like he had a gains of 1 yard and fell forward for 3. I thought [the first run] was a 3-yard gain, and all of a sudden it’s second-and-3. I was impressed with Adrian the way he ran.”
Peterson saved one of his best runs for last. The Redskins went for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 40-yard line. Peterson, running to his left, was going to try to slam the ball just outside the left tackle, but a defender closed that gap, so Peterson bounced wide left where Davis was blocking his man. Peterson cut back to the inside to finish for another 10 yards.
Peterson had been hoping for some sort of lead play through the middle, but the Redskins called for a run that he could take wide, perhaps anticipating a stacked front.
“When Alex called the play, I’m like, ‘Dang,'” Peterson said. “I just kind of got in my mind that I was gonna be patient and just watch and see how the play developed. I actually had a two-way go; I could have taken it into the gap [outside the tackle] and I almost did. The outside was wide open so I just turned on the speed a little bit, got around and tried to make a big play out of it.”
Peterson did not play another snap, but he had made his point.
After the play, left tackle Trent Williams — his good friend — embraced him.
“I got on the sideline and I was like, ‘Man, I should have crossed field,'” Peterson said. “He’s like, ‘Nah, you did good, you did good.’ But I’m always thinking that way.”
The Redskins are thinking they might have found more help at running back.
“The guy just got here, got up to speed fast, and all of a sudden he’s getting a bunch of touches in a game,” Smith said. “Still looks pretty strong and explosive. It was good to get him in a rhythm and see what he can do.”