The criticism bugs Derrius Guice because he doesn’t think it’s fair. There aren’t many questions about his ability to run the ball, but there were a few about what he could do in the pass game.
His response: That’s not a fair knock.
“A lot of guys say I can’t catch and stuff just because on film I don’t really catch as much because we don’t throw the ball,” Guice said at the combine. “I feel like people shouldn’t really speak on things they don’t know much of.”
He’s right; LSU did not throw to its backs a lot, so there’s no real proof that Guice can’t help in this area. But it’ll be about more than just his hands. He’ll need to learn how to run routes at an NFL level out of the backfield. One reason Chris Thompson worked with the receivers for a day last year was to improve in this area. And he was entering his fifth season. He took time to develop in this role, too.
As Guice evolves in the pass game, he could learn to run routes from various spots, including, for example, split wide. But pass protection also will be pivotal. The Redskins saw him catch the ball enough -- 32 times at LSU -- to defray worries about his hands. But it's also about understanding protection calls, having to see the entire field at times rather than just one side and then executing. Translation: stopping 250-pound linebackers from hitting the quarterback.
At LSU, Guice had to block and appeared willing. Against Texas A&M last season, for example, Guice often slowed his man using technique that will need improving to stop an NFL linebacker. He turned his shoulder too much or lowered his head at times. Other times he was squared up and won, whether by cutting his man or just blocking him.
It’s not unusual for rookies to need work in this area, but his desire is not an issue, and that’s one thing the Redskins liked. Guice got to his spot in time.
“He has some improvement to do in the pass pro, without a doubt, and I think he'll be the first one to tell you,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “That’s something that sometimes in college, with only 20 hours of practice a week, some of the fundamentals as far as pass-blocking sometimes gets swept by.
“He's more of a first-, second-down banger. But I've seen him at his pro day catch the football. He can catch the football fine, but really, our role for him is quite easy to see. It’s first, second down.”
Thompson will handle the third-down role for Washington, as he has the past three seasons. He’s a varied route runner who also protects well. However, the more Guice can do, the more the offense can expand with him in the game. Or if he becomes multi-dimensional, the Redskins could sometimes use a two-back set with Guice and Thompson. Atlanta did that with Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman 30 times last season. New Orleans paired Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara on the field 58 times, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
If the Redskins did that, it could create matchup headaches for defenses in the pass game, especially if the defense stays with its base look. But more than that package, having Guice help in the pass game simply improves the offense.
Guice can use former LSU teammate Leonard Fournette as an example. At LSU, Fournette caught 41 passes in three years. But as a rookie with Jacksonville last season, he caught 36 passes. With Guice, it could just be about experience. It’s not about confidence.
“I’m a great receiver out the backfield, and I can block as well,” Guice said. “So I’ll be able to protect the quarterback as well. My will to hit really separates from anyone else. I’m very willing to hit and do what I have to do to stay on the field.”