The narrative is a familiar one: a highly touted player is met with early adversity and must overcome to reach the heights that are still attainable. In the case of Derrius Guice, he must do so in his third and arguably most crucial year in the NFL.
After being selected in the second round of the 2018 draft Guice has had multiple, unfortunate setbacks in his fledgling career. With his left knee alone he has experienced an MCL sprain, meniscus tear, ACL tear, and knee sprain all in the span of three years. Out of a possible 32 regular season games he has played in 5. With all this considered, why is there an almost universal optimism coming from the Redskins camp that Guice will breakthrough in his third year?
In short; Guice has unwavering support from his teammates as well as front office personnel. “I want him to be successful. That’s what he needs coming off the last two years,” said Adrian Peterson to reporters after a Week 13 win against the Panthers last season. Against the Panthers Guice had his best professional performance finishing with 129 yards and two touchdowns. Adrian Peterson celebrated Derrius’ on-field success and emphasized that he was there to nurture his teammate’s growth as a professional. “I’m always rooting for him and I want him to know, ‘Hey I’m in your corner and we can do this together.”
In the following game against Green Bay, Guice once again picked up an injury on that same left knee, effectively ending his 2019 season. Before the injury, Guice made his mark by seeing action in those 5 games and accumulated 245 yards on 42 carries, 2 rushing touchdowns, and 79 yards from 7 receptions. While a limited sample size, it was enough for VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith to place faith in Guice moving forward. He even went as far to suggest he could fill a role similar to Christian McCaffrey in the new offense under Scott Turner. “I do believe Derrius Guice has an opportunity. He can do all of those things.”
Lofty expectations are nothing new to the former LSU Tiger who during his time at Baton Rouge accounted for 2,800 combined yards and 29 combined touchdowns. However, becoming a focal point of an offense after suffering what many would deem as debilitating lower body injuries is a tall task no matter the innate talent. Despite his injury history, the Redskins believe Guice possesses immense ability as a pass catching back. That he can cement himself in an offense with a second year quarterback in Dwayne Haskins who will need a shifty safety valve out of the backfield.
It is no secret that Turner’s offense in Carolina revolved around the dynamic McCaffrey. Spreading the field and allowing your most talented player to create opportunities using speed and versatility is surely a tenet that will be brought to D.C. While the often deemed “overcrowded” Redskins’ running back room presents the organization with options, Guice has the highest ceiling of them all and is also most form-fit for a Scott Turner scheme.
Despite his limited time on the field, Guice has averaged nearly 6 yards per carry, showcasing downfield running ability which made him such a high draft pick. His 7 receptions for 79 yards in 2019 put his physicality on display as well. At a stout 5’11 225 pounds. Guice is a force when he picks up a head of steam. In the open field he is as dangerous as anyone on the Redskin’s roster. Take for example his first professional touchdown against the Jets. Coming off a screen pass, Guice makes his way out of the back field up the near sideline with a burst of speed and awareness of his blockers. This run/pass combination featuring Guice could be deadly and hopefully a prominent cornerstone of the Redskin’s offense.
The Redskins have drafted the new addition of Antonio Gibson, who also fits a similar archetype to McCaffrey. There is a possibility that both Gibson and Guice could work in tandem. Guice, being the most established runner of the two, could present opportunities to Gibson in how the defense reacts to both players being on the field. This of course goes both ways. Keeping the defense honest can only bring both these backs ample opportunities to imprint upon the game in their own ways. The options could seemingly be endless, also allowing J.D. McKissic an opportunity on third and short situations with Guice on the field as well. In any event, the permutations of interchangeable backs all rely on the same principle: Guice must influence that uncertainty to the defense in his versatility alone.
If Guice can come into 2020 healthy and eager to adapt to the new offense the injury narrative can become a thing of the past. The aforementioned running back roster that includes the likes of Adrian Peterson, Bryce Love, Peyton Barber, Antonio Gibson, and J. D. McKissic is in itself an obstacle for Guice. He must put himself in a position to not only show durability at the position but also versatility in order to demand the appropriate workload. Much like Adrian Peterson, Skins nation is rooting for Guice and we all hope to see him realize his potential in this new offense.