ASHBURN, Va., -- The Washington Redskins wanted another running back, one who could complement Rob Kelley. Instead, they ended up with a back with similar qualities. It might make for a tough call by fantasy football players, but it also might be the best thing for both players and, therefore, the offense.
Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, the Redskins' fourth-round pick, becomes an instant challenger to Kelley for the starting job. The player most impacted, though, could be Matt Jones. The former third-round pick in 2015 will be in jeopardy of losing a roster spot.
"He's a physical runner, without a doubt. Nobody can argue that point," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Perine. "He's also a leader, but when it comes down to it, he can get from here to there -- physically. He's a physical runner and had a lot of production and a lot of yards. Can't argue the production and the toughness that he has, and that's what drew us to him."
Kelley showed toughness last year as well, taking over the starting job for Jones. Kelley is not a dynamic back, nor will he become one. That’s OK; the Redskins like who he is as a running back -- and it’s not just something they say publicly.
So the question becomes: Who gets more carries? Considering Perine hasn’t even worked out with his new teammates, it’s far too early to know the answer. One Redskins defensive player, who watched him in college, predicted Perine would be the starter.
It shouldn’t impact Chris Thompson because he’s still the best receiving back on the roster. Plus he handles blitz pickups well and still provides a change-of-pace.
Gruden called his character an "A-plus" and pointed out that Perine benched 225 pounds 30 times at the combine. Gruden also wasn't worried that Perine only ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds.
"I don’t think he gets enough credit for once he gets outside that ability to run over people, stiff-arm people [and] still make people miss," Gruden said. "We know how strong he is. Just a total package is really what we liked."
In Kelley’s nine games, he wore down from the high usage and the run game suffered. Kelley had never carried the ball more than 98 times in college but finished his rookie year 168 -- 151 in nine starts. In his first three games, he averaged 4.79 yards per carry; in his last six he averaged 3.3 per run. Some stems from blocking issues; others from a bothersome knee.
But having another back who can run with power means the Redskins don’t have to choose. Two years ago the Redskins used Jones and Alfred Morris, trying to go with the so-called hot hand. The Redskins could do that with Perine and Kelley (one separator could be how each handles the passing game; Kelley struggled there early but caught eight of his 12 passes in his final three games). It allows them to play with power much of the game, while keeping both fresher during the season. But it’ll take some time before we know who handles the bulk of the work.