Three Takeaways: Running Backs Coach Skip Peete

Posted Feb 18, 2016

New running backs coach Skip Peete plans on emphasizing physical play and protecting the passer in the backfield.

Between Todd Gurley, Benny Cunningham, Tre Mason, and Malcolm Brown, the Rams have a talented young crop of running backs. And that group will have a new voice to lead them in running backs coach Skip Peete.

A longtime coach not only in the NFL, but also in college, Peete has plenty of experience and should be able to greatly aid in the Rams’ RBs development. Our Dani Klupenger sat down with Peete to get to know a little more about him and his coaching style. Here are a few takeaways from their conversation.

1) Coaching philosophy feels like a fit

When coaches are introduced, they often talk about instilling discipline and physicality. Peete was no exception, mentioning both in his interview with Dani. But perhaps a more important indicator of his style was what he said about the attitude he takes towards players.

“I think the one thing that I’ve always stressed to the running back position is discipline and physical play. Those things, I think, go hand-in-hand with the position,” Peete said. “My style has not been a real mean, yell, get-after-you type coach -- unless I need to do that.

“My father was a coach, so the way he explained it to me was, ‘I’m going to explain exactly what your role is, explain exactly what you have to get done in order to perform and have success at the position. And if we see eye-to-eye on that, then we shouldn’t see a problem,” Peete added.

Peete’s philosophy in that regard appears to mesh well with that of head coach Jeff Fisher, who carries a reputation for the way he’s able to manage players. Multiple Rams have said in the locker room over the past few years that one of the best aspects about Fisher is that he treats players like men. Parsing Peete’s words, that seems to be the way he intends to coach the running backs room.

2) Using the “s” word for Gurley

If there was one ward continuously and universally used to describe Todd Gurley in 2015, it was “special.” And it didn’t take long for Peete to use the term in describing Los Angeles’ star running back.

“Very, very talented running back -- someone who’s very special,” Peete said. “I think he has all the qualities that you look at when you’re looking for a very elite running back, where he has ability to, obviously, run inside, run outside. Very good, physical pass protector and can catch the ball well out of the backfield.”

“Elite” is often used to talk about quarterbacks, but in this particular case, Peete’s use of it makes a lot of sense. Gurley finished No. 3 in yards rushing in 2015 with 1,106 in just 12 starts. He set plenty of marks along the way, including becoming the first rookie in NFL history to rush for at least 125 yards in four consecutive games.

Given Gurley’s considerable skillset, Peete has plenty to build upon for the running back’s sophomore campaign.

3) The importance of pass protection

Perhaps the most striking aspect of Peete’s conversation was the emphasis he put on protecting the passer as an essential element of a running back’s job.

“The one thing I think a lot of running backs -- whether it’s college or professional football -- don’t really understand is the importance of protecting the quarterback,” Peete said. “Your ability to be a pass protector is something that I think is very, very important. We’ve got to keep that guy upright, and as long as we keep him upright, then we have a chance to win. And so that pass protection part of your game has got to be something that’s very, very important.”

Heading into draft season with the NFL Combine next week, Peete said pass protection is one of the more difficult skills to evaluate on a player entering the NFL for a number of reasons.

“It’s something I think you do look at when you watch guys in college. But some teams and some teams don’t necessarily ask the running backs to do that quite a bit in college,” Peete said. “They either were in a pro-style offense in college and had opportunities to do that. Or it’s something that you’ve got to teach them from scratch once you get them.

“I think everyone wants to run the ball and wants to have the ball in their hand. That’s part of being a running back,” Peete continued. “But the other part is the dirty work where you have to do the physical blocking.”

Once the Rams get the offseason program going in the spring, it seems appropriate to anticipate pass protection will be a strong point of emphasis in the RBs room.