Washington head coach Jay Gruden opted not to use Adrian Peterson at all in Sunday’s loss to the Eagles, despite the running back being healthy and ready to go. Gruden instead fielded Derrius Guice and Chris Thompson, who rushed a combined 13 times for 28 yards, and Wendell Smallwood, who didn’t have an offensive touch.
When asked to explain the healthy scratch, the first of Peterson’s career, Gruden explained that he didn’t play Peterson because he needed to focus on the punt coverage unit and contain Darren Sproles. “We need as many guys that can cover,” Gruden said. “We had to get the linebacker up for special teams.”
But the coach’s sarcasm hinted that as long as Guice is healthy, he had no plans to use Peterson in any form:
“He’s a first- and second-down back,” Gruden said. “So is Derrius. So, really, what do we have? About 20 first downs a game. Probably eight of those are passes, 12 of those might be runs, and Derrius can handle those 12. So if we have a game where we think we can run the ball 55 times in a game in an I-formation, then sure, I’ll get him up.”
When asked about the benching, Peterson said he had been looking forward to playing against the Eagles all offseason. “I don’t think I’ve kind of grasped it yet,” he said. “It’s my first time ever being inactive, a healthy scratch. It was tough, of course.”
The running back’s teammates were not happy with their coach. Both Mike Florio and Mike Garafolo reported before the game that the decision to scratch Peterson upset several veterans in the locker room. Right tackle Morgan Moses said on the radio this morning that the benching was a “slap in the face.”
“Any time you’ve got a Hall of Fame guy that doesn’t dress, man, it’s a slap in the face. And obviously, we’ve gotta figure out what the reason is. And it’s my job as one of the older guys on the offensive line to speak up and say, ‘Hey, we need him.’ Obviously, you don’t put a Hall of Fame guy like that on the sideline. When he’s healthy, as well.”
There are clearly high expectations for Guice, and Peterson is getting old, but last season the 34-year-old notched more than twice as many yards from scrimmage (1,250) than the team’s second-most productive player. Coaches said during the offseason that they planned to at least split carries between the two. Phasing in Guice makes sense, but it’s fully on brand for this dumb team to offend its own locker room leaders in Week 1 by ham-handedly managing the benching of their 1,000-yard back, who in March received a new two-year contract.