Redskins coach Jay Gruden was eager to take his new running back for a spin Friday night.
Gruden saddled up the veteran workhorse on the second possession, riding Peterson to the tune of seven consecutive carries for 28 yards and a 15-yard penalty on a chain-moving field-goal drive.
The highlight of the first half came two series later when the entire stadium knew the ball was going to Peterson on fourth-and-inches. The partisan crowd promptly erupted with euphoria as the seven-time Pro Bowl selection scampered outside for a 15-yard gain and a fresh set of downs.
Peterson finished the first half with 56 yards on 11 carries, leading Redskins color analyst Joe Thiesmann to proclaim, "You could do a clinic on what you want a running back to do" based on the former Vikings superstar's sample size.
"I saw a big guy running pretty hard really," Gruden said after the game. "He had a five-yard average, I believe, had a couple good bounces, and, you know, the thing I like about some of his runs is they look like they're like gains of ones [yard] and he'd fall forward for a gain of three. ... I was impressed with Adrian and the way he ran."
The 33-year-old might have been an afterthought in free agency, but his game film with the Cardinals last season showed a strong runner with burst, power and explosive jump cuts. That same form was on display versus the Broncos, suggesting Peterson has plenty of gas left in the tank.
Although Gruden has insisted that Rob Kelley is entrenched as the starter, Friday's performance gave us reason to believe this an eminently fluid situation. In fact, Redskins sideline reporter Clinton Portis might have let the cat out of the bag when he began a late-second quarter interview with the following statement to Peterson: "We already know you're probably going to be the starting running back, Day 1."
This is a situation to monitor not only for the Redskins faithful, but also for fantasy football owners preparing to draft in the next two weeks. Our money is on Peterson leading this backfield on early downs, with Kelley operating as a complementary back.