The Redskins had a tough time running the ball against Philadelphia in the NFC East rivals’ season-opener, with starter Rob Kelley and third-down specialist Chris Thompson combining for just 34 yards on 13 carries in the 30-17 loss.
Rookie Samaje Perine, the team’s fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma, never got on the field for an offensive series but appeared on 10 special-teams plays.
Asked about Perine’s readiness to contribute, Coach Jay Gruden said that the rookie didn’t get an opportunity against Philadelphia simply because the offense did a poor job sustaining drives.
“Three-for-10 on third downs means you’re punting and you’re on the sidelines, and then you get back out there and you’re trying to get points — you’re down,” Gruden noted. “We didn’t maintain the ball on a lot of good drives, so we weren’t able to get him out there. It’s our job to possess the football, convert on third down and have more opportunities. … The more opportunities we get offensively, the more carries he’s going to get and that’s our intent every week. It just didn’t happen Week 1.”
A stocky, powerful 5-foot-11, 233-back, Perine topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark in three consecutive seasons at Oklahoma despite sharing time with featured back Joe Mixon. But he had a rocky preseason-debut for the Redskins, fumbling once, dropping a pass and gaining 15 yards on six carries in a loss at Baltimore.
Former Redskins running back Brian Mitchell, who is bullish on Perine’s potential, suspects that might be why Gruden is bringing the rookie along slowly.
“He had a fumble and wasn’t good in pass protection in the preseason,” Mitchell noted in a telephone interview. “Those young players have to learn how to be an NFL player.
“As a running back at Oklahoma, all he had to do was run the ball. As a running back in the NFL, his first job is to protect the football. His second job is to protect the quarterback. His last job is to run the ball, especially in this offense. If your mind-set is, I’m just gonna run, run, run — that’s not enough.”
Against Philadelphia, Kelley and Thompson split the 63 offensive snaps among backs (Kelley got 33; Thompson, 30). Mack Brown was inactive.
Asked whether Perine’s preseason fumble was still in his mind, Gruden said: “Yeah, we don’t forget fumbles. He won’t forget that either. He’s not that type of guy, I don’t think, but we’ll see. We’ve just got to get him some opportunities and see where he’s at. But we think he’s a physical runner, and he’s going to help this football team over the course of the season.”
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