- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2017

ASHBURN — Redskins starter Rob Kelley is doubtful for Sunday’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers, which means rookie Samaje Perine will get another extended look as Washington’s main running back. 

But like most rookie running backs, Perine is trying to learn a fundamental element to running the ball — being patient.

In four games, Perine is averaging only 3.1 yards per carry. Drafted out of Oklahoma in the fourth round, the running back is getting used to running the ball more under center than from shotgun.

“Running out of gun is more natural for me because I did it in college,” Perine said. “But I can’t just be a one-sided back. I have to become comfortable with everything they’re asking me to do. That’s what I’ve been working on and feeling like I’m making some pretty good progress.”

The run game has been surprisingly efficient for the Redskins this season. They rank seventh in the league with 130 yards per game and 11th in rush DVOA. Redskins coach Jay Gruden has always downplayed the notion of being a “pass-first” coach, but he’s shown a commitment to sticking with the run this year.

Perine has seen a healthy amount of carries, too, in part, because of Kelley’s injuries. Kelley went down during a Week 2 win against the Los Angeles Rams with a ribs injury and Perine had 21 carries. The following week, with Kelley out, Perine ran the ball 19 times.

This week, Kelley has an ankle injury and is a “long-shot” to play, Gruden said. Perine will start while Chris Thompson will remain as Washington’s third-down specialist.  

“[Perine’s] doing a good job, he’s running physical still,” Gruden said. “This will be a great week for him if Rob can’t go.”

Perine, who has 143 yards on 46 attempts, said Kelley has been giving him advice on how to stay patient.

“Sometimes, I get in a hurry and try to make plays too soon,” Perine said. “I don’t let the blocking develop. … He lets me know I have more time than I think I have. Once I do that, then I can see what he’s talking about because things develop and bigger plays are usually made when that happens.”

The winless 49ers have a steady run defense anchored by defensive lineman DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas. San Francisco ranks 14th in rush defense DVOA and has allowed only 3.6 yards per carry.

Perine, though, sees the opportunity in front of him.

“Things are just falling into place now,” he said. “I’m feeling more comfortable in the offense.”

Adjusting without Williams

Another question mark for Sunday will be if left tackle Trent Williams can play. Williams is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision.

If he’s out, T.J. Clemmings will start. How much will that change the Redskins’ offense?

“When you’re talking about protection and you’re talking about taking deeper drops and waiting for plays to develop down the field, you may limit some of those and work on maybe quicker passing game and more play-action stuff – get some help for the tackle here and there,” Gruden said. “But, I feel good about T.J. and where he’s at. I don’t think we’ll have to change a whole lot.”

Clemmings, a 2015 fourth-round pick, spent the last two seasons starting for the Minnesota Vikings. The Redskins claimed him off waivers after he was released in September.

“I feel like he’s doing pretty good. It’s new to him. It takes a lot to learn, especially from coach [Bill] Callahan,” Williams said. “He’s a guy that demands a lot out of you, a ton of focus to perform for him. That’s new to him, but I think he’s coming along real well, especially this week.”

Getting Crowder going

Redskins wide receiver Jamison Crowder has had a slow start to the season with only 14 receptions for 106 yards. Part of that can be attributed to hip and hamstring injuries.

But Gruden’s goal is to get Crowder more involved going forward. 

“I think you’ll see more of Jamison Crowder hopefully,” Gruden said. “He is one of our best skill players. We have got to get him more involved in the offense. That is partly my fault, to get more balls targeted for him.

“Whether it’s quick game, whether it’s getting the ball out in space somehow, bubble screen, whatever it might be, I have got to get the ball to him in space more often and get him in the flow early.”

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