Adrian Peterson’s not done yet; former MVP signs with Washington

Peterson is just one rushing touchdown away from 100 in his career.
For most of 2017, Adrian Peterson looked like a 32-year-old running back whose odometer had creaked over 12,000 career yards. But for two glorious games, he snapped back to peak form to push the Arizona Cardinals to victory.
Washington is betting he can reclaim that glory, if only briefly, after signing the veteran tailback Monday following a string of injuries in training camp and preseason.
Samaje Perine suffered an ankle injury in the team’s preseason game against the Jets on Thursday, and second-round pick Derrius Guice saw his rookie season end before it ever began when he suffered an ACL tear.
The contract will give Peterson one more chance to prove he’s not washed up yet. While he’s been a shell of himself throughout the majority of the past two seasons, a pair of 100-yard performances suggest there’s still a little gas left in his tank. Though he’ll be 33 this fall, Washington’s hope is the team’s running back by committee will help him fend off Father Time for one more season.
Is mid-30s Adrian Peterson worth the gamble?
Despite his history of bouncing back from adversity — some of it injury based, some from his own bad judgment — Peterson isn’t worth a big investment at this stage of his career. His output took a nosedive after a stunning All-Pro performance at age 30 in 2015. His 2016 season was cut short by injury and featured a pitiful 1.9 yard per carry average in the games where he was healthy.
His 2017 appeared to be more of the same when he struggled to crack a resurgent Saints’ tailback rotation. Peterson averaged fewer than seven carries per game while ceding time to 2017 offensive rookie of the year Alvin Kamara, leading to an eventual dirt-cheap trade to the desert. The change of pace paid immediate dividends. Peterson ran for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns in front of a raucous London crowd to prove he still had some gas left in the tank.
That explosion wasn’t sustainable, however. Over his next four games, Peterson was held to 21 yards by the Rams, exploded for 149 against the 49ers, ran for just 29 (on 21 carries) against the Seahawks, and limped in with 26 versus the Texans. He’d get strung up by a bottom three rushing defense one week, then carve up a top-six rushing defense the next.
Washington is betting on the unpredictability, but with hedges. Peterson is an inexpensive risk, one that can be jettisoned if he’s not worth the trouble. He’ll also have the impact of his tough days mitigated by the presence of Chris Thompson, Rob Kelley, and the eventual return of Perine. That should give him a little breathing room to break out — even if it cuts into the touches he so badly wants.
Why shouldn’t Washington fans be especially excited about adding a future Hall of Famer?
They aren’t getting a legend in his prime. They’re getting Arizona Cardinal Emmitt Smith or Atlanta Falcon Eric Dickerson. There’s still some tread on the tires, but there isn’t much time before the engine breaks down. Peterson’s 1,000-yard seasons are most likely behind him, and while he’s pulled off miracle recoveries in the past — like when he returned early from a torn ACL to record a 2,000-yard season and earn league MVP honors — his latest battle is against an undefeated opponent, time.
He can still add value, but he’ll have to prove he can handle being less than an unquestioned starter. Head coach Jay Gruden may wind up with a headache on his hands if Peterson isn’t given the touches he believes he deserves. The most memorable thing about his four-game stint with the Saints wasn’t his 3.0 yard-per-carry performance, but the death stare he gave coach Sean Payton for deigning not to play him more in a loaded backfield.

Peterson’s extended time as a free agent should’ve been a sign to him that his days as a bell-cow, featured back are over. And if he embraces his role as a rotational piece, he could provide a spark to the Washington offense.
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