After a jittery start in Baltimore, running back Samaje Perine took some major strides and showed off his physicality against the Packers Saturday night at FedExField.
A conflation of debut nerves and playing in a new environment likely contributed to some of rookie running back Samaje Perine's struggles in the Redskins' preseason opener against the Ravens last week. It was understandable.
This year's fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma ran the ball six times for 15 yards, dropping a short pass and fumbling, as he played in his first NFL game. Head coach Jay Gruden never wavered in his analysis in the days that followed. He admitted it was a "rough first start" but was excited to see how Perine would respond with some experience under his belt.
"We're not losing faith in Samaje," Gruden said. "We have total confidence that he will get right."
Saturday night at FedExField, during the Redskins' 21-17 loss to the Packers in the team's second preseason game, the confidence was rewarded. Perine rushed eight times for 45 hard-charging yards and he also caught a pass, a floater down the sideline that he turned into 29 yards and a third-down conversion.
"Everything came more naturally," Perine said. "I didn't really know what to expect my first NFL game but after I got that one out of the way I just went out there and had fun."
Perine didn't get an opportunity to hit the field until the second half, after the first-team offense started to get its wheels turning, finishing out the second quarter with the first touchdown of the preseason.
Check out the top images from the Washington Redskins' 2017 Preseason Week 2 matchup against the Green Bay Packers Aug. 19, 2017, at FedExField.
But Perine's number was called early and often to start the third quarter, as he touched the ball on the offense's first four plays, including a couple of four-yard rushes before quarterback Colt McCoy gave him an opportunity down the sideline to show off his hands and open-field ability.
"When I saw it coming, I got a little nervous. Always happens," Perine said of the pass. "But you know, I just stayed calm and it came natural."
The Redskins continued to pound the ball after Rob Kelley couldn't get going in the first half, running nine yards on nine carries. Perine looked like a different running back Saturday though, attacking the line of scrimmage with more force and being more decisive about where he was running. That included showing some patience, too, noted on a particular nine-yard gain as he waited for center Chase Roullier to block into the second level before cutting up field and through a hole.
"He was a whole different player from last week," Kelley said of Perine. "Whenever you see the Samaje you saw on YouTube when you watch his highlight tapes -- once he gets going, it's a problem. I think he's one of those guys that you put it on his shoulder, you're going to take it."
Gruden noticed that, too.
"I thought he ran the ball well," Gruden said. "I felt his pad level down. I think he had 45 yards and he had a nice catch on the wheel route down the sidelines. I think there was a major step up and I expected that from Samaje. He's the type of guy that I figured would bounce back. I'm glad to see him play so hard, so well."
The second preseason game, in other words, was an improvement, from both a personal and team standpoint. Still, running the football will be a process each week as the offensive line continues to gel with each other while facing real hitting.
If the Packers game was any indication, the team, and Perine, is on the right track.
"We just got to continue to push dirt," Perine said. "Every day isn't going to be our day, we're going to have some hiccups and we just gotta keep working. I feel like we took a stride from last week, but we still have a ways to go. But I feel like with the way we're working, the way the coaches push us, we're going to get there."