With Adrian Peterson set to face Washington, let's revisit the move to cut him

Peter Hailey
·4 min read

With Peterson set to face Washington, let's revisit move to cut him originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Adrian Peterson will get the opportunity to face his previous employer this Sunday, when Peterson's Lions welcome the Washington Football Team to Detroit.

The running back is definitely ready for the meeting, too, as he recently vowed to make his old franchise "realize what they let go."

A motivated Peterson is a scary thing to deal with, so Jack Del Rio's defense better be ready for a four-quarter battle with the future Hall of Famer. But before that battle occurs, let's revisit Ron Rivera's decision to cut Peterson just before the season began.

The 35-year-old was quite involved during the Burgundy and Gold's training camp, and only near the end did his reps with the starting offense begin to diminish. However, most figured he'd still have a role on Rivera's roster and act as a respected voice in the coach's rebuild, so when he was released, it was a serious surprise.

The emergence of Antonio Gibson was a main factor in the organization moving on from Peterson, as was Gibson and J.D. McKissic's versatility, something Scott Turner's system needs from the position. The veteran handled it professionally, quickly joined up with the Lions and has played in every one of their games. 

Looking back, though, did Washington and Rivera make the right call?

So far, Peterson has 93 carries for 350 yards (which comes out to an average of 3.8 yards-per-attempt) and a pair of touchdowns. He's had double-digit carries in five out of Detroit's eight contests and he's also added 10 receptions in addition to his ground work.

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In Washington, meanwhile, Gibson conveniently has nearly the same amount of carries as Peterson does. In his first eight pro appearances, the rookie's taken 90 handoffs for 391 yards (which comes out to an average of 4.3 yards-per-attempt) and five touchdowns. He's had double-digit carries in half of the team's contests and he's also compiled 22 receptions.

As for McKissic, he's posted 34 carries and 35 catches and is averaging 4.8 yards and 7.3 yards respectively when it comes to those touches. 

In terms of straight-up production, Washington appears to be surviving without Peterson. While their overall rushing offense is worse than Detroit's, both are in the bottom-third of the NFL. Sure, they may miss him in certain short-yardage situations or when they need to really wear down an opponent, but Gibson and McKissic are adding a lot with their hands. In other words, it's not like they're truly hurting without his presence.

But what's more important when re-evaluating the call to drop him is zooming out even further. By cutting Peterson, Rivera cleared the way for Gibson to really see a lot of action at running back, a spot that's essentially brand new to him. The third-rounder is progressing and growing with every matchup, a process that would've been stunted somewhat if Peterson were still around. 

Then there's McKissic, who's been one of the offense's more reliable options and who may be earning a contract that's more secure than his current one-year deal. Peterson wouldn't have taken away from his duties nearly as much as he would've Gibson's, but still, McKissic is having his best-ever campaign in the league and he's only 27. Gibson will certainly be a fixture for the next few seasons, and McKissic has a chance to be as well. 

Not everyone was pleased when Peterson's time in Washington came to an end this past September, and judging by his comments, he intends to show his own displeasure this Sunday. Even if that happens, don't label the personnel choice as a failure.

He was incredibly useful in his Washington tenure, but what Washington has learned since that tenure concluded has been more useful. Whatever takes place on the field in Week 10 won't change that.