Washington Redskins: Can Samaje Perine be the starting running back?

Fourth-round pick Samaje Perine had an impressive weekend at the Washington Redskins rookie minicamp, but can he be the starter in D.C.?

The Washington Redskins wrapped up their annual rookie minicamp on Sunday and it was fourth-round running back Samaje Perine who everyone seemed to be talking about. Head coach Jay Gruden certainly hasn’t hidden his affection for the 5-3, 234-pound rookie, per J.P. Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

We couldn’t pass up on Samaje. We were happy to get him, man. We really enjoyed his interview, his toughness, watching him on tape. You feel his presence when he runs the football. He’s a hard guy to get down, and if you do get him down, you’re going to get up holding your shoulder or something because he’s going to hit you.

During a portion of the minicamp over the weekend, Gruden even taunted the defense after a Perine run.

For an offense that lacks a clear solution at the position, Perine could be in exactly the right spot to make an immediate impact. Last year’s rookie, Rob Kelley, is back. Kelley had a solid rookie season, but didn’t exactly blow coaches away. He will remain a part of the rotation and is still the leading contender to start — for now.

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Chris Thompson is Washington’s clear-cut third-down back. That’s not a knock on Thompson. The fifth-year back from Florida State broke out last season and was not only a dangerous weapon in the passing game, but also averaged over five yards per rush. He’s outstanding in pass protection, too. The biggest knock on Thompson is size. He’s just 5-8 and 194 pounds. He also has a lengthy injury history. The Redskins love him and he’s ideal for his current role.

So, Perine is competing squarely with Kelley for Washington’s starting running back job. And he stands an excellent chance of coming out on top.

One person who knows a thing or two about running backs, Hall-of-Famer LaDanian Tomlinson, had a bold prediction for Perine in 2017. He thinks Perine will not only be Washington’s starter, but that he will also be a top-five rusher in the NFL in 2017.

If Tomlinson is right, the Redskins could contend for a spot in the Super Bowl. Yes, you read that right. Quarterback Kirk Cousins hasn’t benefitted from a strong running game in his two seasons as the starter. If Perine could rush for over 1,200 yards and the defense improves at least to the middle of the pack, the Redskins could be onto something.

Even if Perine doesn’t win the starting job right out of the gate, he can help this team. A big focus this offseason has been trying to get better in the red zone. Terrelle Pryor’s addition and the return of Josh Doctson should help the Redskins in that quest. Perine can help, too. Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher rushed for 49 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners and that’s after splitting time with Joe Mixon the last two years.

Mixon received all the attention at Oklahoma — both good and bad — while Perine quietly flew under the radar. Now Perine could in a position to have an equally productive NFL career.

Jordan Howard was a fifth-round pick by the Chicago Bears in 2016. He went on to rush for over 1,300 yards as a rookie, good for second in the NFL, but was overshadowed by Ezekiel Elliot of the Dallas Cowboys. Could Perine be in for a similar season? He’s certainly capable.

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Source: Fox Sports

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