As an undrafted free agent, players face a dramatic uphill battle in their ultimate attempt of making final cuts. While most flounder and are waived prior to the final list of 53, a select few over the last couple of seasons have dominated the preseason, forcing their respective head coach’s hand in offering them a spot to compete in Week 1.
Washington running back and 2021 UDFA Jaret Patterson is no longer a feel-good story; the 5-foot-7 dynamo of power and quickness has taken over the headlines in the nation’s capital as the burgundy and gold sit with just one preseason matchup remaining.
He’s been electric.
Whether it’s in the backfield, on special teams, or in pass pro, Patterson has provided a jolt of energy into a Washington backfield lacking in run punch behind proposed bellcow back Antonio Gibson. Production is nothing new for the former Buffalo product, as Patterson enjoyed an outstanding college career, rushing for 3,884 yards in 33 games, including a 409-yard, eight-touchdown game against Kent State last fall.
During the offseason circuit, NFL teams were initially skeptical that Patterson didn’t tout the athletic makeup to be a pro runner due to his lack of stature. Through two preseason games, Patterson has embarrassed each of his doubters.
“He’s an explosive, young, dynamic back,” Washington head coach Ron Rivera said. “We gave him some opportunities early on with the first bunch and he did a nice job with that. Then when the second bunch was in there, two-on-two, I thought that he really showed his ability. And again, you’ve got to be able to do it consistently, so we’ll see. He’ll get some more opportunities.”
Along with his 16 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown Friday against the Cincinnati Bengals, Patterson recorded three receptions out of the backfield for another 25, while also showcasing his prowess and open-field creativity on special teams, amassing a 31-yard return during the opening minutes of the second half.
While his ability in the backfield has raised eyebrows, through two games, Patterson’s all-purpose yard total of 203 combined yards (111 rush, 55 receiving, 37 return) in the preseason are currently tied for the second-most in the NFL, leaving Rivera with a dilemma of where exactly Patterson ultimately fits in a backfield with two current proposed locks in Gibson and third-down back J.D. McKissic. Peyton Barber looks to be the odd-man-out, as the goal-line punch-back hasn't offered more than just that entering his second year in Washington.
It’s really an overall scope into the newfound culture Rivera has inserted in D.C. A roster once struggling for depth and pop just a few seasons ago under former head bench boss Jay Gruden has now progressed into a unit coming off a division title in 2020 with positional battles aplenty, as snaps are now earned, never given.
“I think he’s [Patterson] a guy that thrives in these types of situations,” Rivera continued on his first-year back. “It’s his style of football, you know, the way he plays and his stature. He does a nice job with what he has, and he’s very effective."
A small example of the fluidity and electric quickness is seen here from Patterson, who pulls an Adrian Peterson-like jump cut out of his deep bag of tools to gain extra yards toward the sideline. It’s an uncommon trait to find first-year talents with the ability to create extra opportunities for themselves outside of structure this early in the season, but for Patterson, it’s been a common occurrence through two weeks and it should be more than enough to have secured his spot on the final 53.
- Dec 08, 2022
- Dec 08, 2022