After a 2016 season full of transition, running backs coach Skip Peete is glad to have the stability that will come in 2017. Peete is one of three coaches to be retained from Los Angeles’ 2016 staff, including special teams coordinator John Fassel and assistant offensive line coach Andy Dickerson.
Of course, there was plenty of uncertainty through the coaching change process — one that resolved in a positive way for Peete and his family.
“You’re in limbo. You don’t know,” Peete said Feb. 10. “When you do it a long time, you kind of go through those types of deals. And like I told my wife, I said, ‘Well, we’ll see what happens.’
“I think it’s a little bit more uncertain for my family than it was for me. ‘Are we going to have to move?’ ‘Daddy, do we have to go to another school?’ Those types of things,” Peete continued. “But I think the transition’s been good now.”
Peete has not previously worked with head coach Sean McVay. But with friends on the 2016 Washington staff, Peete kept up with the team and was familiar with the scheme McVay implemented.
“Some of the things they were doing in the play-action game and the run game were things that excited me,” Peete said. “And so, we had that kind of conversation.”
Much was made about the reported phone call McVay received from running back Todd Gurley endorsing Peete staying on to lead his room. While Peete did not address the address that directly in an interview with therams.com, he did say he’s developed a pretty good relationship with the 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year.
“The one thing that was interesting is when I first arrived, obviously there was a lot of change and things going on. So he was kind of a stand-off guy, kind of had a guard up,” Peete said. “But I think as time went on, we kind of built a bond where we kind of felt comfortable with one another. He felt he could say whatever he needed to say and get if off his chest.”
Clearly, Gurley’s numbers in 2016 were down substantially from his rookie season. Peete said there are many factors that led to Gurley’s sophomore campaign, and the coach sees ways for Gurley to get back to the gash runs that dazzled the league a season ago.
“Sometimes you look at the big picture and what produces that — I don’t know if there’s a true back in the entire league where you can just hand him the ball and they’re going to run 80 yards,” Peete said. “It’s a combination of everyone working together, wether it’s you and the runner being disciplined in your footwork, your course, your press, setting the defense to help the linemen, the tight ends, receivers all get in position to get their job done. And then that’s where you have naturally large and big gains.”
But there’s one particular aspect of Gurley’s game Peete would like to see improved to make the Georgia product a premier NFL running back.
“The biggest thing he and I talked about had nothing to do with the run game, though. It was more about the importance of a running back, in my opinion, in this league [to have] the ability to be a very dominant pass protector,” Peete said. “I think you as the runner as you step up to protect the quarterback — it’s very important that you physically do that in a manner where there’s no pressure in the framework of the pocket to where the quarterback can finish his throwing motion. And he and I had a lot of conversations about that.”