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Play of the day: Redskins RB Thompson shows off his speed

Aug 3, 2016, 12:01 PM EDT


RICHMOND—It was a running play to the far side of where the media watches practice. Chris Thompson got the ball and then disappeared into a mass of bodies pursuing him as he ran to the right. All of a sudden he popped out of the crowd as he turned on the jets and burst past the defense for a nice gain. The play drew a few ooh’s and aah’s from the crowd. Speed always impresses.

And with the Redskins still in search of a backup to Matt Jones it makes you wonder if the Redskins are going to look to Thompson to handle those duties. Last year he had only 23 rushing attempts but three of them went for 26 yards or longer. Thompson could add some pop to the offense after the 6-2, 232-lb. Jones wears down the defense for a while.

He got only 23 carries last year in part because of the presence of Alfred Morris, who led the team in rushing attempts with 202. Now Morris is gone and the team has not signed or drafted anyone to take his place.

Sometimes Thompson seems to be very willing to take on a bigger role.

“We don’t have Alfred here so that could mean more opportunities in the run game for me and be more involved in the game plan this year,” said Thompson. “Whatever the coaches have for me I just want to be prepared, to be ready.”

But later in the same interview session with reporters, Thompson indicated that although his role could get bigger he seems to be content as the third-down back.

“You know every guy always dreams of being the starter but for me, since I’ve been here, I’ve understood what my role is,” he said. “Even though I’m labeled as a third-down back my role still can continue to expand. I could possibly be that No. 2 to Matt if he gets tired I can be the one that’s spelling him here and there.”

That doesn’t sound like he’s going to be going into Jay Gruden’s office and saying, “Give me the damn ball” anytime soon.

There is legitimate concern that Thompson won’t hold up if his load is increased to around eight to 10 carries per game. Injuries plagued his career at Florida State and he missed most of his rookie season after a shoulder injury. A back bruise and another shoulder injury cost him three games last year. Thompson said he has a high tolerance for pain and there’s not reason to doubt that but the laws of physics say that a 5-8, 195-lb. running back isn’t going to be able to take much of a consistent pounding.

But his speed will always draw the attention of the coaches so he needs to be prepared to play a bigger role. He won’t carry 150 times this year but he could well get 75 to 100, especially if he can burst around the corner against other teams like he did in practice on Tuesday.

  1. redskins12thman - Aug 3, 2016 at 12:07 PM

    I think you summed it up well. If Thompson can remain healthy, he will get his playing time as he has proved that he can be a playmaker.

    Rich, who do you think has the “lead” to be the 3rd RB and 3rd OLD (I know it could change anytime this month)?

    I can’t believe how tight the race is among Dunbar, Phillips and Toler for last DB spot.

  2. blazerguy234 - Aug 3, 2016 at 12:52 PM

    Jimmy Johnson once said something to the effect.3 things that I want in a football player…speed, speed and more speed. Plenty of examples of how speed impacts on both sides of the ball. Look no further than DJax. I always look back to Darrell Green…his gift of great speed helped make him one of the best corners ever, in the NFL.

    • Trey Gregory - Aug 3, 2016 at 1:36 PM

      But speed isn’t everything. Sound bites are great and all but it’s more complicated than that. I’ll take intelligence, work ethic, and durability over speed and flashiness any day. Case in point, Jerry Rice. He was not particularly fast for a WR. Some might even say he was slow. But he is the best WR in NFL history. And he had a notorious work ethic and high level of intelligence.

      Some of the best ball carriers in Redskins history weren’t particularly fast. Morris and Riggins certainly weren’t. But they were tough. DJax is a fine football player. Some consider him elite, some don’t. But he does have elite speed. Still, there’s easily 10 slower receivers I would take instead of him. Maybe more. Ross is very fast, and I would take almost any receiver over him. You still need the other skills required to play the position well.

      • rtcwon - Aug 4, 2016 at 12:01 AM

        I would like to see your list of 10 WRs > DJax

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 2:35 AM

          Shoot, I messed up my reply and tingly sent to the bottom. Sorry.

      • bangkokben - Aug 4, 2016 at 10:50 AM

        Trey, you seem to have an aversion to speed. Like someone who’s never got a speeding ticket, never been on a roller coaster type aversion. Or the slow guy that was always overlooked by fast guys that gave no effort.
        Of course there are guys that can get it done in this league without speed but Thompson, Jackson, and even Ross are better options on this team than guys that can do nothing great but everything well. The league is FULL of those guys too. Elite speed against elite athletes is something that can’t be taught and is a necessary thing for a team to have in it’s arsenal — it give the team the ability to score from anywhere. We’re talking about three guys on the 53 — four if both Ross and Marshall make the team and Thompson doesn’t get injured.

        Antonio Brown is the best receiver in the game. No, he IS the best. He’s 5’10” 180 lbs drafted in the 6th round from Central Michigan. If Ross develops into 1/3 of AB, than that is worth the roster spot. if Marshall, who lacks vision by all scouting reports, discovers it at this level, than that is a great story. The problem comes when fans think that speed alone is all that is needed. It obviously isn’t. Brown is one of the hardest workers in the league. His precision of route running along with that speed makes him extra special.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 5, 2016 at 12:11 AM

          To clarify something, I like Thompson. Some of my posts below may have gotten a little muddied, but I think he’s a great asset when healthy.

          And hey, you caught me, I’ve never been a particularly fast guy. But I also never received any ridicule for it and it never hurt my self confidence. So you’re a little off there.

          You actually hit on one of the points I’ve tried to drive home 100 times about Ross. About how the problem is that some fans think speed is the singular quality that receivers need to have a high ceiling. We obviously agree that isn’t true.

          And I mentioned Antonio Brown as one of the receivers I would take over Desean. I also said that speed IS an asset, but I prefer other qualities ahead of it. I want a WR that does more than run fast. A guy who can do it all. Antonio Brown does it all. Desean doesn’t. And the people who want to defend Desean’s shortcomings usually say “yeah but he’s really fast.” So I point out there’s more to being a receiver than speed. Maybe that makes it seem like I don’t like speed, but that’s completely false.

          What I don’t like are incomplete receivers being touted as some of the best in the league. In the list of receiver I made that I would prefer over Desean there are guys of all shapes and sizes. But they’re all more dynamic than he is. They all do more. They’re slower, but still deep threats. But they can do more than run a go rout. They catch first downs, redzone TDs, corner fades, jump balls, and make tough catches in traffic/across the middle. I also specifically said a guy with a bigger body who is also fast has tremendous value.

          It’s not just about length, it’s also about mass. Like Garcon. He’s built in a way where he can still make tough catches in traffic and block, despite not being particularly big. Length is just the quality I covet most because it usually allows receivers to be more dynamic. But there’s always exceptions, both ways. I don’t like Ross because he’s a bad WR. I don’t have much faith in Marshall because he’s a 7th round pick who didn’t show anything in college. And I like Desean just fine, he’s a big asset to the team. But I want more out of my #1 receiver. The only things I don’t like are the thought of us passing on a WR more suited for the #1 role because he’s on the team (which shouldn’t happen thanks to Doctson) and fans who think he’s better than he really is. He’s tremendous at what he does. But he simply doesn’t do all the other stuff that make truly great receivers great. It has nothing to do with me not liking speed.

          And, be honest guys, did you all think Desean Jackson was this elite receiver when he was in Philly? Would you be defending him like this if he wasn’t on your team? And who would you take Desean over from the top 10 I gave?

        • bangkokben - Aug 5, 2016 at 8:57 AM

          Fair enough. I was simply trying to make the point that your reacation to “he’s fast” argument may have swung the pendulum of reasonability to the other side.

          “And, be honest guys, did you all think Desean Jackson was this elite receiver when he was in Philly? Would you be defending him like this if he wasn’t on your team? And who would you take Desean over from the top 10 I gave?”

          There are plenty of guys on that list that don’t make THIS TEAM better. The REDSKINS need a legit threat to blow the top off the defense to maximize how their offense works best. I keep marveling at how close the Jets game was last year without Jackson, Reed, Williams, Lauvaou, and Lichtensteiger; but the offense was unable to do what it wanted to do.

  3. Trey Gregory - Aug 3, 2016 at 1:47 PM

    I’m kind of torn about Thompson. Part of me wants to say that he adds a lot as a 3rd down back so we should greatly limit his carries and only use him when we need him to protect his body and the he team’s ability to win. He has big play ability and adds another dimension to the offense when healthy.

    But then I also think that’s a little counter productive. We need players who can step up anytime. It seems crazy to use up a roster spot for a guy who’s incapable of taking more than an eighth of the reps (just an random number to make a point). It seems like we should just run him as many times as needed and if he can handle it, great. If not, then maybe we should move on. I want Thompsom to succeed, but he’s never truly going to until he proves he can handle a regular work load.

    And what happens if Jones goes down? The new #1 is a guy who will likely get hurt if we run him more than 6 times a game? That’s nuts. Just give him a regular dose of carries and let’s see what happens. If he can’t handle it then we’re probably better off moving on and finding his replacement sooner than later. I mean, really, what does he add in a limited role that Pierre Thimas can’t? Thomas would be perfect as a guy you run out on third down 2-3 times a game.

    I’m really wishing Scot would have used that 4th round pick on a good RB prospect right now. The injury concerns for our top 2 RBs are very unsettling.

    • redskins12thman - Aug 3, 2016 at 4:18 PM

      Alex Collins looks like a baller and he was available. Seattle took him in the 5th round, 171st overall.

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 3, 2016 at 4:37 PM

        Yeah. I’m really surprised McCloughan felt comfortable going into the season with what we already had. Especially since you can get good talent with just a mid round draft pick.

        But I have to assume either he didn’t see anything he liked or he really sees something great in Jones. Because we could still bring in a veteran free agent, but nobody who’s going to make a huge difference. So it’s all on Jones and Thompson to get it done. Which is going to take some faith from the fans until we see it work.

        • redskins12thman - Aug 3, 2016 at 6:46 PM

          Well he did pick Marshall in the 7th, but given his injury history, it would be stretch to think it’s nothing but rolling the dice because he’s an extremely talented athlete. Let’s give Brown, Kelley and Young a chance too since all four are on the roster.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 3, 2016 at 6:56 PM

          But there’s a reason he went in the 7th. Late in the 7th. And it’s not just injury history. He was healthy last season, and at the time of the draft. Unlike Fuller, who was hurt last season, and when drafted, but was still a 3rd round pick. Because he actually has a ton of upside. Marshall is just fast. He hasn’t really shown anything else. Somebody would have taken at least a 6th round flier on the guy if he had that much upside. But it’s bad when all 32 teams let you slip late into the 7th. That means you’re probably not even a project.

          I’m not going to have expectations for any 7th round pick at any position. Except maybe a kicker. 7th round guys very, very rarely work out. And McCloughan knows that. He knew he wasn’t addressing our RB issues with Marshall. He just took a guy with the most upside late in the 7th. Which isn’t saying much.

    • renhoekk2 - Aug 3, 2016 at 4:44 PM

      There are a bunch of undersized fast RB’s that come out the college game every year. Especially since the proliferation of the spread offense, which uses the RB like another WR. I never saw the attraction of Thompson and why they insist on keeping a roster spot for a player who has averaged 6 games a season for his career. Oh and just had another surgery this off-season. Being fast and able to catch a football are not unique skills that he possesses.

      • redskins12thman - Aug 3, 2016 at 6:49 PM

        Yes Thompson is injury prone, but I think athletically, Thompson is among the elite (i.e., he stands out among many gifted athletes who are NFL caliber); obviously not in the 1% — like Cam Newton, Trent Williams, etc. — but in the next group.

        • goback2rfk - Aug 3, 2016 at 8:33 PM

          I am not sure, I think you guys are way off. Thompson is not even close to the elite small backs. Danny Woodhead is of the elite. Thompson seems like a regular dude that will be gone in a year or two.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 2:43 AM

          Everyone has their own definition of elite, but mine is the guys in the 1%. The guys at the very top. The very best. That’s literally the definition of elite.

          As far as back like Thompson being a dime a dozen, I don’t know about that. Elite? No. But he’s a very talented athlete. If it were so easy to find a back like Thompson then everyone would have one, including us as his replacement, and this wouldn’t even be a discussion.

          It’s true that backs like Thompson are all over the NCAA. But they don’t all translate to the NFL. Most college RBs don’t ever really even have a playbook or have to read a defense. They’re just told to run right or left and they go. Many aren’t asked to protect the QB because the ball comes out so fast in a spread offense. It’s a lot harder to find a pro ready back these days than people think.

          It’s hard to say because we’ve had such a small sample size from him. But if he could run like he did last year, full time and without getting hurt, he would be a HUGE asset to this team. He would be one of the better backs in the NFL at 6 yards per carry. I hope he figures out how to stay healthy. Because if he does, our running game would not be a problem anymore.

        • redskins12thman - Aug 4, 2016 at 11:30 AM

          Agreed. I was just talking about athleticism, nothing else.

    • sidepull - Aug 3, 2016 at 4:58 PM

      I was, and still am, miffed that Booker went to the Broncos. I think that was quite a debatable no pick in the 4th. Time will tell. I know, I understand the logic in passing on a pick in the 4th but it doesnt mean I have to like it. I want them to now pull the trigger and get Thomas as well. We will see. I am so pessimistic about this RB situation. I hope they are not as vulnerable as they appear to be.

      • redskins12thman - Aug 3, 2016 at 6:51 PM

        Yes. It looks like Booker’s going to get his chance to play some this season.

    • goback2rfk - Aug 3, 2016 at 8:37 PM

      The RB position is not highly valued and RB’s are a dime a dozen. 1 year they are a star, next year torn ACL, next year they suck. The RB crew will be just fine because Cousins will be airing that sh|t out to one of the most formidable offensive passing attacks in the league anchored by the speedy Jackson on the outside and several strong hands on the inside, not to mention the dominating TE group. Cousins should pass for over 4000 yards I would imagine, eh? The RB group will be on the back burner just like last season. Lets just hope those bums can hold onto the ball.

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 2:51 AM

        4,000 yards seems like a little much…. But I don’t know. Maybe. Hopefully he doesn’t throw for 4,000 because we’re down by 30 every game and he’s getting garbage time yards.

        I know what you mean about RBs being devalued, and it’s generally true. But there’s still a place for them. Just like all positions of lesser value. They may not be as important as others, but if you find a stud at that position, they’re a huge asset. Like Kuekly for example: ILB is the least valuable position on defense. But he’s extremely valuable to that team.

        The run game is being de-emphasized but a good RB still makes a huge difference. A monster run game can still lead a team to victory and make it a hell of a lot easier for the QB to pass (see Todd Gurly, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson). The passing game will suffer without a real run threat. Football truly is symbiotic all around. There will simply come tough games where constant passing won’t work and they need a run game to lean on (especially in include the weather or to run out the clock). See what happens to our passing attack when the defense plays off the line and only drops 6-7 guys into coverage because they’re not worried about the run.

        • bangkokben - Aug 4, 2016 at 10:57 AM

          4,000 yards seems like a little much? What are you talking about? Cousins threw for 4166 last year with only playing 1/3 of the finale and not making a pass attempt in the 2nd half of the Saint game. That was tenth in the league. Throwing 4000 is almost the equivalent of rushing for 1000. It is how the game is played now. A good running game will actually allow for more space when throwing. Even as crummy as the run game was last year, the coaches committed to using it and that is all they have to do. Dropping 6-7 guys is coverage is what teams do all the time and the Redskins were excellent against the zone last year.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 11:51 PM

          You know, I must admit I made a bit of a mistake there. I saw and wrote 4,000 but I was thinking 5,000. I was pretty tired when I made that reply, I guess that’s as good an excuse as any. Or I’m just losing my mind.

          The rushing for 1,000 yards is a good comparison. Because not everyone does it, but it’s a benchmark for the upper echelon. Interestingly, the MVP didn’t even throw for 4,000 last year. It was somewhere in the 3,800 range. Same with Aaron Rogers (but he had an off year). So it’s not necessarily the mark of a good season.

          But I agree it’s likely Cousins throws somewhere in that range. The intent of my initial comment was to say that he may throw for less than last year. Even if he and the team get better. Chances are the defenses we face will be tougher and, hopefully, we get more out of the run (which, I assume, why Cam didn’t break 4,000). Also, if our defense improves (and I think it will), we may be able to build a comfortable lead and slow the pace down.

          So all I really meant to say was Cousins could improve but have more conservative stats. Sorry for the confusion.

        • bangkokben - Aug 5, 2016 at 8:48 AM

          I know the running game was a factor for Newton but just likely was the fact that they were up a ton against the opponent. When you consider that the Panthers played New Orleans twice, the Giants, the Eagles, and the Redskins — 4000 was a gimme.

  4. Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 2:34 AM

    Not based on age, and in no particular order: Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Deandre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Demarius Thomas, AJ Green, Amari Cooper, OBJ, Alshon Jeffrey, TY Hilton, Brandon Marshall, Allen Robinson, and probably Keenan Allen.

    Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, and Eric Decker are guys I would have to think long and hard about. And probably a few others I’m forgetting. Josh Gordon could easily be on this list if he can turn his life around. And I know I’m not the only person who thinks this way. I tried and couldn’t find a top 10 receivers list that had DJax on it from a non biased party. Meaning, not one made by a fan of someone affiliated with the Redskins.

    And there’s other receivers, like Julian Edelman, I think are more productive. But this isn’t about who I think is better. It’s who I would rather have. I’m not knocking Desean’s skills. I’m saying he’s one dimensional. I want size and length in my receivers more than speed. Desean is useless in the redzone and isn’t going to catch jump balls because of his body. He’s also not going to make those tough possession receptions across the middle of the field (like Garcon). He’s basically a home run hitter or nothing. A good year for him is averaging 2-3 bombs a game with a TD about every other game. There’s still a lot else that has to get done besides those hand full of receptions. And he’s not particularly durable or good at blocking (which is an underrated skill set for receivers). It’s great that his presence stretches out the defense, but so do slower WRs. Those first guys I listed are deep threats and stretch Ds too. But they can do all the other stuff as well.

    And it’s really OK. That’s what we drafted Doctson for. He has the potential to be one of those too receivers.

    • chimps000 - Aug 4, 2016 at 8:27 AM

      demarious Thomas looked awful last year- Alston Jeffrey is not the game hanger desean is- basically everyone you listed after Odell beckham is below djax caliber

      he changes the game immensely and is a clear blue chip receiver- everyone likes garcon but he is simply not that level.

      if desean is hurt a lot this year, then we can talk about what he is worth in terms of resigning.

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 5:19 PM

        Thomas didn’t have a QB last year. But you’re going to ignore the other years where he’s consistently been one of the top WRs in the game? A lot of this is strictly opinion, but it’s about as close to a fact as possible that Thomas is a better WR than Jackson. I really didn’t think that one would get debated.

        But how kind of you to bring up Jeffrey. Someone who you say isn’t the game changer Jackson is. So I guess that means you think Jackson is better. It’s hard to compare Jackson to most receivers in 2015 because he was hurt. But it just so happens him and Jeffrey each played 9 games. So it’s fair to compare their stats.

        Receptions: Jeffrey – 54, DJ – 30
        Yards: Jeffrey – 897, DJ – 528
        Average YPR: Jeffery – 14.9, DJ – 17.6
        Yards per game: Jeffrey – 89.7, DJ – 58.7
        Touchdowns: each had 4
        Receptions of 20+ yards: Jeffrey 14, DJ 10
        Receptions of 4+ yards: Jeffrey – 3, DJ – 4
        First downs: Jeffrey – 43, DJ 15

        The first downs is what really gets me. Because it shows how much more involved Jeffrey is. My point wasn’t that Desean isn’t good, it’s that he can’t do as much so that makes him less valuable. He’s one dimensional. How can a guy who’s so much more of a game changer have worse stats almost across the board than the guy he’s better than?

        My other point is that you don’t have to be lightning fast to be a deep threat. The tall receivers are also deep threats. They stretch the field because they require 2 DBs to go wherever they go. But they can also catch a jump ball. They dont have to beat the DB to win. Jeffrey had 4 more receptions of 20 yards or more and only one less of 40 or more. But Jeffrey also gets first downs and is a redzone threat.

        • chimps000 - Aug 5, 2016 at 8:52 AM

          to be fair, I didn’t watch hardly any Chicago games last year… was going by memories of Jeffrey over several years, where he was dynamic several years ago, and then appeared to not be that same guy anymore- which may have more to do with chicagos oline and qb than anything else.

          I have watched a lot of Denver games over the last few years, and Thomas was a shell of himself last year- he looked terrible. I would expect him to play better this year,
          he couldn’t look much worse for a number one guy who was paid big money.

          Btw, it’s not fair to compare a clear number one option like Jeffrey with desean who is competing for catches with better skill players- I would bet money that Jeffrey got those numbers on far more targets than Jackson.

          I think Jackson gets underrated because frankly ppl don’t like him, which is understandable.

    • chimps000 - Aug 4, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      I understand your points- I just think you underestimate the impact his speed has on the game- as opposed to a guy who just has average or good speed- the help defenders in the secondary have to know exactly where he is and they can’t cheat like they can with other guys-

      to me, garcon is a dime a dozen wr- so many possession wrs in the game- he is a solid number 2, not a 1, and I think he is clearly overpaid this year but I’m fine with that. He has average and hands average speed… they say he is great at blocking but to me that’s not a hugely important skill for a wr to have in today’s pass happy nfl

      • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 5:33 PM

        Trust me, I’m not underestimating his speed. I know exactly what it brings. I think people greatly over estimate how valuable it is.

        Now if you had a guy built like Calvin Johnson who could run as fast as Desean, then THAT is valuable speed. But the length is more important.

        The best receivers to ever play. What’s the quality most of them have? Is it speed? No. Jerry Rice was not a fast WR but he’s still considered the greatest to ever play. Rashad Ross is very fast but he’s a terrible receiver. A big body is more important. The defense can’t cheat with a lengthy receiver either. Desean has to get separation to win but the big WRs can have 2 DBs draped on them and still come away with the ball. So speed isn’t as important for them. But they’re still HUGE threats to the defense and stretch the field.

        And Desean’s speed really only helps with about two routs. But he’s not good with the rest of the rout tree. He doesn’t catch first downs, doesn’t win in traffic, is not a good blocker, is worthless in the redzone, and can’t catch a jump ball. He’s very good at what he does but he’s a one trick pony. Desean has never even had 10 TDs in a season and averages around 3-4 receptions a game. Guys, he’s just not as valuable as the more productive receivers.

  5. smotion55 - Aug 4, 2016 at 10:41 AM

    Thompson has a skill set BUT never has stayed healthy, always hurt here and in college. He is only 1 of the 3- 4 they keep. just like he was his other 3 years here.

  6. John - Aug 4, 2016 at 12:39 PM

    Thompson has shown that he is injury prone but when healthy is an excellent receiving option out of the backfield and a respectable runner. Unfortunately his propensity to get injured limits their use of him.

    In regards to DJax, he can really fly and is excellent at tracking the ball in the air. That being said, his small size limits what he can do (blocking, catching in traffic, etc.). Very good but not a “complete receiver”. There are better all around receivers.

    Ross and Marshall have speed and that’s it. What good is speed if you can’t follow blocks or find and hit the hole? What if the guy can’t read the playbook or runs the wrong routes or drops the ball?

    I realize Marshall was injured at Georgia but also when healthy, the other backs around him were better. If he were that good when healthy, he would have been carrying the ball a lot more.

    • Trey Gregory - Aug 4, 2016 at 5:23 PM

      Marshal was healthy last year, and Chubb got hurt. What did Marshall do? Absolutely nothing.

      And you’re absolutely right that speed isn’t everything. It’s a simplistic way of looking at it. Because it’s easy to evaluate. Just go run in a straight line. But football isn’t track. There’s so much more to it than speed. Desean simply isn’t a true #1 receiver, regardless of his talents, because his body doesn’t allow him to be one. He can’t do everything so he’s not as valuable as some other guys who are less athletic. Archives

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