SEATTLE — In the days leading up to the Seattle Seahawks’ third preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, running backs Thomas Rawls and Christine Michael heard from an old friend: Marshawn Lynch.
It was also a vivid depiction of why Peterson, admittedly, has been at odds with running out of the shotgun. He’s been able to build the bulk of his Hall of Fame resume on handoffs from a quarterback under center; Peterson has logged 2,257 such carries in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and has averaged 4.95 yards per attempt, accounting for 11,204 of his yards and 94 of his touchdowns. But when asked to line up next to the quarterback, Superman becomes Clark Kent: Peterson has logged only 115 shotgun carries in his career, for 461 yards and three touchdowns, and his nine pistol attempts — all of which came in his last two full seasons — went for just 10 yards.
Peterson logged a career-high 32 carries out of the shotgun last year, and five more out of the pistol, as the Minnesota Vikings tried to bring him back from his 2014 suspension in an attack that had been adapted to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s strengths. The team quickly scrapped that plan, though, giving Peterson just 19 shotgun handoffs after Week 2. It wasn’t as if the return to familiar territory didn’t work; Peterson led the league with 1,485 rushing yards, accounting for a greater percentage of his team’s offensive output than any other player in the NFL, and helped the Vikings win the NFC North for the first time since 2009.
Still, after a wild-card playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the running back admitted he needed to be more versatile. Traditionally an infrequent participant in organized team activities, Peterson showed up on the first day of OTAs as the Vikings renewed their efforts to improve his compatibility with Bridgewater. And while Peterson won’t play in the preseason again this year, he said Thursday he’s done enough work in the shotgun to get a better feel for the running style — and even come to enjoy it.
“Just being more patient, that’s always been the main thing,” Peterson said. “I’ve been able, I feel, to conquer that now. I feel real comfortable taking runs out of the shotgun, and I’m liking it more. I was always against running out of the shotgun, but now that I’ve kind of switched and tweaked my way of approaching it, things are working out good.
The groin injury Cruz had been dealing with didn’t appear to limit him Tuesday, when he took 18 snaps during live drills and caught a team-high seven passes.
Cruz, 29, has missed most of the past two seasons with knee and calf injuries. He tore the patellar tendon in his right knee on Oct. 12, 2014, against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Beckham continues to reiterate that the goal for Cruz should be the Sept. 11 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. But the Giants are anxious for Cruz to get on the field, hopefully as soon as this weekend against the Jets.
“It’s important. It’s the game,” coach Ben McAdoo said. “That is what he is looking forward to. That is what we are looking forward to seeing him do.”
McAdoo said last week the Giants still haven’t been able to make an evaluation on him this summer. He’s hoping this week provides some information.
“We’ll find out more [Tuesday] and [Wednesday],” McAdoo said before Tuesday’s practice. “But I’m looking forward to seeing him. It was nice to see him in a uniform in pregame the other day.”
After coming through unscathed Tuesday, the next step is to string together back-to-back practices. Cruz’s legs need to prove they can handle the pounding of football work. Then it’s onto getting through the week and playing in the game. But for one day at least, the Giants were happy with where this situation is headed after years of health struggles.
“It’s great to see Vic back out there,” Beckham said. “He’s been through quite a lot.”