Derrius Guice provides Redskins glimpse of future, and some hope

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The play highlighted Derrius Guice's skill set, a full display of what the Washington Redskins running back offers. It's what they have been waiting nearly two years to see. He slipped through the line after displaying patience. Then he stiff-armed a linebacker, sped down the sideline and plowed forward for 8 more yards after getting hit at the 9-yard line.

There was patience, vision, speed and violence all on one run. It's why the Redskins were excited about finally seeing Guice after two knee injuries combined to ruin all of last season and eight games of this one. It's why they're hopeful that games like Sunday's 29-21 win in Carolina -- when he rushed 10 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns -- are a preview.

It also was a reward for Guice, who tore his left ACL in his first preseason game as a rookie in 2018. He had fallen to the 59th overall pick in the draft amid questions about his maturity. Then, in Week 1 this season, he tore the meniscus in his other knee and missed eight games while on injured reserve.

"I just never give up," he said. "Everyone knows about my fall in the draft and then as soon as I got here, injury after injury. It's been hell. I've had people in my corner who never left. Also had people that were negative. I'm just really strong mentally. I didn't let all the outside noise get to me. I just kept grinding and I knew I got here for a reason. I wasn't going to stop until I showed it."

The Redskins need to entice a new coach -- and excite the fan base -- with the promise of young talent. Sunday, they had eight offensive players in key roles who were 25 years or younger. They used 12 defensive players -- starters and key backups -- who were 25 or younger. They have rookie receiver Terry McLaurin, who leads Washington with 646 receiving yards and five touchdowns. They have rookie quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, who has made steady progress albeit with a lot more needed.

If nothing else, this group is optimistic.

"We have a great trio," Haskins said. "A lot of young guys stepping up. As we continue to grow the rest of the season and the rest of our careers, we can be very lethal together."

There's a long way to go before that becomes a reality, but days like Sunday give the Redskins something they have been lacking this season: hope. In three games since returning from IR, Guice has showed some signs: He scored on a 45-yard screen pass against the Jets two weeks ago; he'd drive through defenders at other times, even if only for gains of 6 or 7 yards.

"I've always had confidence," he said, "just had bad luck and couldn't really show it."

The success didn't all stem from Guice as the Redskins' offense scored a season-high 29 points. They gained 362 total yards, their highest output since the season opener. Adrian Peterson rushed for 99 yards. The run game produced 248 yards -- more than their entire offensive output in each of the past five games.

"Those are the days I've been waiting on since they told me I tore my ACL," Guice said.

Numerous people in the Redskins' organization could say the same. The phrase "two-headed monster" also was uttered by more than a few in the locker room. The other part of that twosome, Peterson, said he was thrilled to see what Guice did.

"It's a spark," Peterson said. "I want him to be successful. That's what he needs, coming off how the last two years played out for him. I'm always rooting him on. I want him to know, 'I'm in your corner, man. We can do this together.' ... When I see him out there being successful, I can sit on the sideline and relax and rest up and have confidence he'll pick up those yards and rip off big ones and get into the end zone. It doesn't get better than that."

In fact, Peterson was supposed to enter the game before Guice's first 1-yard touchdown run, but told him to stay in so he could get the first rushing touchdown of his career. Peterson, who leads the Redskins with 642 yards, said having another back run like that eased the burden on him. He gained 29 of his yards on his final drive, capping it with a 12-yard scoring run.

"I felt fresh," he said.

Guice looked fresh, too. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he hit a maximum speed of 19.47 miles per hour on his 60-yard run, before getting knocked out at the 11-yard line by safety Eric Reid, who had the angle. But it was the 37-yard run that had the locker room still buzzing after the game. Six yards into the run, linebacker Shaq Thompson tried to tackle him from Guice's right side, aiming up high. But Guice used his right hand to knock Thompson to the ground.

"That's just instinct," Guice said. "He's a very good player. I just broke the arm tackle and he was the first guy there. My instinct is to just punch him and see what's up."

The run sparked comparisons to John Riggins' memorable 43-yard TD run for the Redskins against Miami in Super Bowl XVII.

Right guard Brandon Scherff, pulling to his left on the play Sunday, had a good view of the action.

"I saw that happen and I kind of started laughing," Scherff said. "It was crazy. He's an animal out there and we love it."