Philadelphia Eagles: Is Adrian Peterson now the NFL’s Dwight Howard?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Once the best runner in the entire league, new Philadelphia Eagles’ foe Adrian Peterson is quickly becoming the NFL’s answer to fellow Washingtonian Dwight Howard.

Earlier this summer, Washington made a controversial decision to bring in a past his prime, future Hall-of-Famer with a throwback style that no longer fit in the modern game.

That player was seven-time Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson.

Or was it eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard?

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That’s right, as the Philadelphia Eagles and 76ers continue to surge up the polls and develop into what could become the next great dynasties in their respective Eastern conferences, both Washington-area teams are struggling to find an identity, and are taking a, shall we say unconventional (desperate?) shot at retaining their relevance however they can.

When the summer began, I doubt Peterson was even remotely on the Washington Redskins‘ radar, but after suffering a slew of injuries at the top of their depth chart to 2017 second round pic Derrius Guice and 2016 fourth round pick Samaje Perine, the team needed help in the form of a big power back.

Peterson hasn’t had a thousand yard rushing season in almost three years, echoing back to his past glory as seemingly the entire Minnesota Vikings offense when he ran for 1485 yards. After missing almost the entire 2016 season due to injury, Peterson is now on his fourth team in three seasons and is presently sitting on the wrong side of thirty. It’ll be interesting to see just how much the 33-year old seven-time Pro Bowler has left in the tank in the nation’s capital.

And then there’s the Washington Wizards.

After infighting between franchise cornerstone John Wall and his stalwart center Marcin Gortat resulted in a divided locker room for much of the 2017-2018 NBA season, Scott Brooks and company knew they needed to shake up the chemistry in his locker room if he was ever going to get his troops together and finally take a shot at the Eastern Conference while their $334 million-dollar backcourt of Bradley Beal and Wall are still in their prime.

Though their decision to flip Gortat straight up for another known roster cancer in Austin Rivers is puzzling at best, the team decided to double down on explosive personalities and signed the best center on the market in a year old Dwight Howard.

Now don’t get me wrong, Howard is a great player, who has averaged a 17.4 and 12.7 double-double for his entire 14-year career, but he’s also on his fourth team in as many years, often getting cut loose due to his inability to get along with his teammates at virtually any of his NBA landing spots.

Is that really how you want to build a team?

For how much talent Howard brings on the court, he’s also become somewhat of a one-dimensional player, as he’s unable to knock down outside shots that are now becoming more and more of a requirement to be a dominant center in the NBA. Though he’s still going to come down with a bunch of rebounds, Howard finished out the season with an ESPN Real Plus-Minus of 1.75, the 26th best mark of any center in the league, a noticeable drop off from his five-time All-Defense, and three-time Defensive Player of the Year award-winning form.

Simply put, this is a boom or bust move.

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Either the Wizards are going to make the playoffs, probably as a fifth or sixth seed due in large part to Howard’s ability to slam down a plethora of Wall assisted alley-oops, or the team won’t even make it out of the regular season intact, with more trades attempting to wipe the slate clean yet again.

That’s just the lot of having Howard on your team, he dictates a team’s style of play, and when it’s not working it’s a disaster.

Could the same soon be said for Adrian Peterson?

Even at the ripe old age of 33, no one can argue that Peterson isn’t still one of the top 40 running backs in the NFL, and deserves a spot on someone’s roster. However, much like Howard, Peterson isn’t a simple plug-and-play guy.

As one of the most prolific downhill runners of this century, Peterson all but has to pick up a head of steam before attacking at the line of scrimmage, a style of play that is quickly getting wiped away in the age of the shotgun spread.

Sure, a team like the Redskins could split the difference and put together a scheme centered around the pistol, but if Peterson’s time in Minnesota sharing the backfield with Teddy Bridgewater is of any indication, he just isn’t equipped for the way teams run their offenses now.

In the modern-day NFL 3-yards and a cloud of dust, with a fullback leading the way is like bringing a knife to the gunfight.

Unlike the recent vinyl resurgence, I doubt the fullback is on its way back.

No, for the power backs of old, you have to adapt to the modern style of play or get passed over. Just ask Marshawn Lynch, who transformed himself into a read-option terror when paired with Russell Wilson as a member of the Seattle Seahawks during their Super Bowl run.

While this may all be for naught, as after trading Kendall Fuller and 2018 third-round pick to the Kansas City Chiefs for Alex Smith and allowing Kirk Cousins to sign with the Vikings on an exorbitant, fully guaranteed 3-year, $84 million deal, it would appear as though the Redskins are fully committing themselves to a time of possession focused power run offense built on the backs of their ‘New Hogs’ offensive line.

Though this style of play will surely help to disguise some of Peterson’s weaknesses, it’s worth wondering what exactly will happen when the team starts to trail in the game and is forced to take their bell cow running back off the field and replace him with their version of Darren Sproles, Chris Thompson, a 5-foot-8 scatback with the ability to run and catch the ball.

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Will Peterson be fine if he only carries the ball a handful of times, or will he pray for a trade like he did in New Orleans?

While neither of these situations directly affect the Philadelphia Eagles or the Philadelphia 76ers, as both teams are more or less built to succeed in the short and long-term, it will be interesting to see how both Washington franchise seasons shape up this fall. Will either organization finally return to prominence and really give Philly a run for their money, or will we be looking at six easy wins that could very well end in fist fights between teammates?

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Only time will tell, but for Adrian Peterson sake, let’s hope he doesn’t take a page out of Dwight Howard’s handbook.