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Samaje Perine impresses Redskins with bounce-back effort

LANDOVER, Md. -- The preseason opener did not go as planned for Washington Redskins running back Samaje Perine. He had mixed results in pass protection. He thought too much when running. And he looked every bit the rookie he was, learning lessons in his first game.

He also looked a lot different in his second preseason outing. Perine was one of the offensive bright spots in a 21-17 loss to Green Bay, rushing eight times for 45 yards and catching one pass for 29 yards.

“Everything came naturally,” Perine said. “I didn’t know what to expect in my first NFL game, but after I got that one out of the way, I just got out there and had fun.”

Last week, running backs coach Randy Jordan said “in his mind, the wheels were spinning a little bit.” In other words, he was having to think too much. But that was not a problem with Perine on Saturday night. He was running vs. Green Bay’s backups, but he did the same vs. Baltimore when he didn’t look nearly as comfortable. Jordan, though, said he likes how quickly Perine puts into action what he’s learned.

On one run Saturday, he showed quick feet in the backfield by dodging a defender two yards deep. But he also showed vision as he never eyed the first defender, rather staying focused on his next cut. It enabled him to find an opening for eight yards. Another time, he ran to the left, cut upfield for nine yards -- with four coming after contact as he stayed low and barreled through the defensive back.

And Perine showed he could turn the corner on a 14-yard run, getting a key block from tight end Niles Paul in space.

He wasn’t challenged in protection as much as he was in the opener. That remains an area he must prove he can handle in order to play a lot. But his running style was more evident Saturday.

He said he was most pleased that he showed, “I’m an OK football player, I guess. Last week I didn’t show that.”

Perine’s reception came off a wheel route in which he had to adjust to the ball, then turn it up field. He has shown in summer practices that he can do that (though he dropped one pass vs. the Ravens).

“I thought he ran the ball well,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “There was a major step up and I expected that from Samaje. He’s the type of guy that I figured would bounce back. I’m glad to see him play so hard, so well.”

Even his main competition for the starting job, Rob Kelley, called him a different player from the opener.

“You seen the Samaje you saw on YouTube when watching his highlight tape,” Kelley said. “Once he gets going, he’s a problem, one of those guys you put it on his shoulders and he’s going to take it.”