Commanders ‘Paying Close Attention’ to Draft RB Compared to Gus Edwards

Gus Edwards

Getty The Washington Commanders paid "close attention" to a 2024 NFL draft RB compared to short-yardage specialist Gus Edwards.

The Washington Commanders didn’t sign Gus Edwards in free agency, but they can acquire a “turbo” version of the short-yardage specialist by selecting Notre Dame’s Audric Estimé in the 2024 NFL draft.

Estimé caught the eye of several teams, including the Commanders, during Notre Dame’s pro day, according to Ryan Roberts of Sports Illustrated’s Irish Breakdown. Roberts noted how “NFL scouts had Audric Estime between 4.56-4.59 in 40 at Notre Dame’s Pro Day today. Big improvement from his Combine performance.”

The improvement from the Combine came at the right time since the “Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, Carolina Panthers, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Commanders were a few teams paying close attention,” per Roberts.

Drafting Estimé would give the Commanders a potential workhorse, a grinder between the tackles, who would ease the rushing load on Austin Ekeler. The latter arrived in free agency, after his old team the Los Angeles Chargers replaced him with Edwards.

Putting Estimé into the same backfield as Ekeler could signal a change in how the Commanders run the ball. It might even raise doubts about the future of incumbent Brian Robinson Jr.

Audric Estimé, Gus Edwards Comparison Intriguing for Commanders

The Commanders often tried zone-based rushing schemes the last four years, but drafting an Edwards-type would change that focus. As USA Today’s Doug Farrar put it, Edwards possesses “vertical elusiveness, up-field power and acceleration, and some juice in the passing game.”

There are echoes of that description in the way Bleacher Report’s Derrik Klassen summed up Estimé’s best attributes. Klassen credited Estimé as “a plus-sized running back with much better footwork and home run speed than meets the eye.” He also “has some passing-down value as well.”

Klassen concluded by pointing out how “Estimé would fit best in a downhill run game that features gap runs, such as Baltimore or Detroit,” then named his pro comparison as a “Turbo Gus Edwards.”

A donwhill, gap scheme is what Edwards thrived in for the Baltimore Ravens. It’s also something Commanders’ offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury used to help another physical back, James Conner rush for 15 touchdowns with the Arizona Cardinals in 2021.

Estimé fits the same style thanks to power-back traits he showed off on this bruising run against Stanford, highlighted by Farrar.

Using a draft pick on Estimé would give the Commanders a more versatile rushing attack, even at the expense of Ekeler and Robinson.

Commanders Scouting Could Spell Trouble for Brian Robinson Jr.

Ekeler admitted his numbers declined with the Chargers in 2023 because of “more downfield throws + downhill runs” not suited to “his play style,” per ESPN’s John Keim.

That admission makes Ekeler, who’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield, look more like a direct replacement for Antonio Gibson. The latter was the Commanders’ primary pass-catching back before joining the New England Patriots in free agency.

Gibson’s departure leaves Robinson as Washington’s likely RB1, even after Ekeler’s arrival. Things would surely change if general manager Adam Peters added Estimé to the mix.

It would be a tough break for Robinson after he averaged 4.1 yards per carry last season. He’s a capable all-rounder, but Robinson is not outstanding in any one area.

That could make him the odd one out if the Commanders completely remake the backfield rotation by drafting a potential starter alongside Ekeler.

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