Adrian Peterson a big name, but Redskins still like their RBs

McKinnie thinks Peterson is still a great RB (1:15)

Former Minnesota Viking and Adrian Peterson teammate Bryant McKinnie and LZ Granderson weigh in on what the RB back can bring to the Redskins. (1:15)

On Sunday, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden made it clear: They aren't looking for a starting running back. Ever since Derrius Guice was injured in the preseason opener, they've been adamant about how much they like the rest of their backs.

On Monday, they signed Adrian Peterson.

That doesn't mean they've changed their opinion on the backs they have. Had they not suffered more injuries, the Redskins would not have made this move. But they had two more, coming after a season in which they had to sign multiple running backs late in the season because of injuries.

The Redskins can't afford a slow start, which means they must be proactive and aggressive when it comes to replacing injured players. They had three running backs available for practice on Saturday and Sunday: Rob Kelley, Chris Thompson and Kapri Bibbs. They have two others who are out for at least a week: Samaje Perine, who might only miss a week, and Byron Marshall, who could miss at least four weeks.

"We're covering our bases right now," Gruden said before Peterson visited.

However, you don't sign a guy like Peterson and not anticipate him competing for a starting job. To what degree remains uncertain. But while there's a reality about running backs in their 30s, he's not joining a group that has an established, every-down back.

Peterson signed a one-year deal, coming off a season in which the future Hall of Famer posted mortal numbers: 156 carries and 529 yards total for New Orleans and Arizona. He tore his lateral meniscus in the 2016 season, missing 13 games. His only good season in the past three occurred in 2015, when he rushed for 1,485 yards.

What does he have left? That depends on whom you ask, as opinions from coaches or evaluators vary from he's "old and hurt" to he "has something left in the tank." Peterson trains as hard as anyone, doing so with close friend Trent Williams in Houston over the offseason.

Yes, he clearly impressed the Redskins with his workout, which is why they signed him. But he's also 33; Frank Gore is still motoring at 35, but he hasn't missed a game since 2010.

But what Peterson does also will be determined by whether or not the Redskins maintain confidence in their other backs. They've liked what Kelley has shown this summer after he shed about 10 pounds to roughly 221 pounds. He has cut more body fat, as he also did the previous offseason.

The result, they hope, is longer runs or quicker cuts to the outside. Two signs of progress for him were the wheel route he ran in the second preseason game and the 13-yard catch-and-run over the middle.

"I told [Kelley] last year, 'I never would have given you an opportunity to run that wheel route,'" running backs coach Randy Jordan said this weekend. "But he earned that because of his dedication to his diet and losing weight.

"He's become quicker. He's faster, and he can still maintain his power. Losing that weight gave him confidence that he can do other things besides just slam it up in there and get you four or five yards. He can capture the edge, make a guy miss. You can see the burst he had on his route and how he caught the ball away from his body."

Washington ranked 28th in rushing yards per game last season and 30th in yards per attempt. Guice was drafted for a reason: to provide a boost. Losing him left the Redskins with the same group as last season. In fairness, the running backs and offensive line battled injuries all year.

Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry for his career -- but only 3.25 yards in his past 146 carries, and 3.13 last season. Just like there are questions about Peterson, there are questions about the run game in general. The tight end blocking needs to improve; the line must stay healthy and help more in the run game. The backs must be better.

On Twitter, former Redskins defensive back DeAngelo Hall approved of the move, saying that none of the players "possess that hard-nosed runners mentality that we saw a glimpse of in Derrius, that we know for sure Adrian has."

The Redskins had issues on third-and-1 carries last season, ranking 27th in yards per carry on this down -- and 28th in percentage of times it resulted in a first down. Peterson has averaged 5.16 yards on such runs in his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. But in the past two years on third-and-1, he has carried four times for no yards.

Once upon a time, this was a typical move for Washington in the offseason, signing a big name to get Redskins fans excited. This one is different, reflecting a weakened running back situation because of injuries. If he has anything left, Peterson can provide a boost. If not, they could then do what they planned to do anyway: roll with what they have.