RB Adrian Peterson upbeat despite Washington Redskins’ offensive line injuries

ASHBURN, Virginia — Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson, in the midst of a career rejuvenation, had a natural reaction to his offense’s injury news Monday. The Redskins lost three starters, two of whom helped open holes for some of his 600-plus yards in the first half of the season. It could change the direction of not only the Redskins’ season, but determine his success as well.

“Me and my friend Maker’s Mark, we had a long night,” Peterson said.

But Peterson knows whiskey isn’t the answer to what ails the Redskins. More success from him, however, would be the antidote to their problems. And they say his numbers don’t have to change a whole lot just because of injuries to those blocking for him.

When the Redskins play at Tampa Bay on Sunday, they will be missing three of their original starting offensive linemen — left tackle Trent Williams (dislocated thumb), left guard Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL) and right guard Brandon Scherff (torn left pectoral muscle). And a fourth, right tackle Morgan Moses, did not practice because of a knee injury.

There’s a chance the starting five offensive linemen will include two players who weren’t on the roster until Monday.

“You’ve just got to stay positive and keep pressing,” said Peterson, the NFL’s ninth all-time leading rusher. “It’s not the end of the world, and it’s not the end of the season for us. We all have to perform better. That’s the mindset that I have. … There’s something different when you lose three starters to where your mindset shifts to, ‘I just gotta do more than what I was doing before.'”

That’ll be hard to accomplish. Peterson has rushed for 604 yards, fifth best in the NFL, surpassing what many expected from him after he signed with Washington in mid-August. The Redskins are 5-3 and in first place in the NFC East because of Peterson and their defense. They control the ball on offense and have limited offenses — save for New Orleans and Atlanta.

In the Redskins’ five wins, Peterson has rushed for 561 yards and four touchdowns. Only the Rams’ Todd Gurley and the Chiefs’ Kareem Hunt have rushed for more yards in their teams’ wins; both have eight victories.

Peterson also needs more help to continue climbing career lists: He’s 380 yards from passing Eric Dickerson for eighth in rushing and needs two more rushing touchdowns to pass ex-Redskin John Riggins for sixth on the all-time list.

For the Redskins to keep winning, Peterson must remain a vital part — no matter who’s blocking.

“He just goes through his reads like he normally would,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “It doesn’t matter who’s blocking for him — at guard, center, tackle, tight end, fullback — if we had one — or receiver. He’s just going to go through his progressions and make his cuts and do what he does. It doesn’t matter.”

The Redskins use a lot of different run schemes; Peterson said opponents sometimes express amazement to him after games over the diversity of Washington’s rushing attack. The Redskins use inside and outside zone as well as power gap schemes. They’ll pull the guards; they use jet-sweep action to slow backside pursuit.

They’re hoping that’s one reason Peterson can still succeed.

“A lot of times that helps you because you have the ability to run gap scheme or zone scheme, whatever it may be,” said center Chase Roullier, the only original starter healthy enough to practice Wednesday. “And you can run it based on what the new guys coming in are better at. You can adjust the game plan with that, depending on how that goes. I don’t think there’s going to be any issue plugging those guys in and continuing to win games.”

But Peterson also has discussed how much he has had to learn in this offense, from the style of the run plays to taking handoffs out of pistol or shotgun formation. He has carried a career-high 44 times out of gun formation, averaging 4.16 yards per carry — his best stat out of that look since 2013. Gruden said Peterson’s comfort level on these runs is more about him taking the right path and less about those who are blocking.

“He’s getting more comfortable,” Gruden said. “We still have downhill runs and will get him going on those, too. The big thing with him is being patient with his reads. Obviously we’d rather have Brandon and Trent in there. But [Peterson] is still going to read it out. If reading inside zone, I’m pressing the line and reading one gap at a time … Hopefully he doesn’t have to read a three-technique [defensive lineman] in the backfield.”

The Redskins only had a long walk-through Wednesday, wanting to get through more plays than usual to help the new players acclimate faster. So Peterson couldn’t get any timing down with them, something he said he’ll try to do Thursday and Friday.

“Once we get going to another tempo that I can say little things to them I might see or notice that I’d like them to do differently or might work better,” he said. “Right now it’s just getting to know those guys and talking to them so they feel more comfortable. But most importantly just knowing that they’re going out and playing hard and fast is what we really need right now.”

One change could be less pulling action from the linemen. That’s an area where Scherff excelled, and without him it might become a reduced part of the plan. But just running the same plays doesn’t mean Peterson will have the same success. There have been times he has made his blockers look good; there were other times his blockers put him in a position to do well — and once he gets past the first wave, his jump cuts lead to more yards.

When Peterson arrived in August, he bemoaned the situation he found himself in with Arizona last season — running behind a makeshift line. However, the feeling has always been that Washington’s backups were better than the Cardinals’ starters. That theory will be tested.

“It’s always hard to tell [in practice] because it’s not live action,” Peterson said. “You always say the play looked great in practice when you draw it up and when you run through it in practice. But when you’ve got guys coming 100 miles an hour, things change. We have confidence in the guys we had here before we brought in these guys. The new guys have to step up.”

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Vikings’ Kirk Cousins looks to shake off 2 red zone picks, end upbeat – Minnesota Vikings Blog

EAGAN, Minn. — Kirk Cousins was aggravated.

An otherwise productive Day 2 of mandatory minicamp was soured at the end of practice when the Vikings quarterback threw two interceptions in the red zone. That same period also featured two overthrown balls, a dropped pass and a ball that was tipped at the line by defensive end Danielle Hunter, all of which occurred in that same troublesome area inside the 20-yard line.

“Right now I’m pretty salty walking off the field,” Cousins said Wednesday. “I’m really frustrated. I do not want to walk into the summer with a bad taste in my mouth about practice. Hopefully we can finish really strong tomorrow and be feeling good going into the summer.

“Even one bad decision in practice kind of bothers me all afternoon and I can be a bit of a grouch when I go home. That one bothered me. Adam [Thielen] was frustrated with a couple plays himself. He was sitting in his locker pouting with me, so we were having a little pity party with each other just now before I came out here.”

After finishing 28th in red zone scoring two years ago, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has made situational football in this area a regular part of practices. Last season Minnesota jumped to ninth in red zone scoring, notching a touchdown on nearly 58 percent of its trips inside the 20-yard line.

These drills have continued this spring, often featuring third-down situations in the red zone.

On his first pass attempt in the second red zone period, Cousins’ pass intended for Stefon Diggs was picked off by Jayron Kearse. Two plays later, Anthony Barr grabbed a pass Cousins meant to send to Kyle Rudolph.

“The first [interception], I just couldn’t get all the way through the throw, so the ball died on me,” Cousins said. “The second one, [I] was testing it a little bit, trying to see what I can get away with, and I learned pretty quickly that I can’t get away with that throw.

“Some of the beauty of OTAs is you can test stuff, you can experiment, you can try things without the ramifications that you would have during the season. Just got to learn from them and use them and bank those reps so that come the season, you’re making really good decisions in those critical situations.”

Cousins was eventually able to string together completions during the third period after completing TD passes to Diggs and Rudolph earlier in the practice.

A key to that? The reinforcement he received from offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, who above adjustments and critiques stressed the importance of a quarterback having short-term memory.

“If you don’t have that, it’s going to be really, really hard to move on to the next play,” DeFilippo said. “In the headset I was just telling him, ‘Next play, next play, next play.’ We’re going to go through rough stretches at some point this season. There’s going to be an interception, there’s going to be a couple three-and-outs in a row. That’s real life football.”

Cousins’ issues in the red zone often were critiqued during his time in Washington. In 2017, the quarterback completed 50 percent of his throws inside the 20, and his three interceptions were tied for the second worst with Dak Prescott and Brett Hundley. When the Redskins moved inside the 10-yard line, Cousins’ completion percentage dipped to 34.6 percent (9-of-25 passing).

When DeFilippo was hired in February, one of the first things the offensive coordinator promised was the Vikings developing a “touchdown-checkdown mentality” in the red zone. The ability to make throws into tight windows or check the ball down is critical for Cousins as he continues to learn the offense and get comfortable in an area where he’s struggled. Part of taking the pressure off Cousins inside the 20-yard line will be the reliance of Minnesota’s run game with Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray, who led the Vikings with seven red zone touchdowns.

As the Vikings wrap up minicamp on Friday and Cousins heads into the offseason, the quarterback aims to put his red zone mistakes in the past and end on a high note. Reflecting on his first two months in the Twin Cities and the ups and downs that have come with learning a new offense, Cousins says the relationship he has established with DeFilippo and the areas of his game he’s honed in on are at the top of his list of early accomplishments.

“I was just pleasantly surprised with the rapport,” Cousins said. “There was a fair amount of carryover from what I’ve done in the past, so that was a good first step, and then whenever I did suggest something, he’s just been a great listener, he’s been a great communicator. I love his passion for the game. I feel like although we’ve never crossed paths in the past, we do have similar backgrounds and a lot of times we’re coming from a similar perspective. I’ve really enjoyed working with him and I can’t wait to build reps and build experiences with him such that we have a bit of a rapport and a dynamic and a reputation around the league. Hopefully we can get there.”

Adjusting to the speed at which DeFilippo has run his practices was a work in progress for not only Cousins but the entire Vikings offense. Rapid-fire deep ball drills where Cousins and backup quarterback Trevor Siemian moved back and forth while launching passes to receivers in rhythm on Wednesday showcased an ability to move up-tempo.

Progress like that earns praise from DeFilippo, who gets to walk away from the spring knowing things that have clicked with his quarterback have translated to team drills.

“I think when you just see him operate fast,” the offensive coordinator said. “He did a few things out there today that unless you knew he did, you would have no idea he did in terms of changing the protection, in terms of using a unique cadence to help us identify the defensive front, the defensive coverage, all those things, the blitz [packages]. Our defense was bringing the heat pretty good today. He did some subtle things that tell you he’s really understanding the little intricacies of what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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