As good as the Redskins’ league-leading ground attack was in 2012, it’s possible it could have been even more productive had there been a change-of-pace/third down specialist on the roster to complement rugged runner Alfred Morris.
Roy Helu Jr. was supposed to fill that role, but a foot injury ended his season after three games. He had surgery in February and, after a minor setback last month, it’s unclear when the 24-year-old will be fully recovered.
Because of the uncertainty, Coach Mike Shanahan used a fifth round pick on Chris Thompson, a 5-foot-8, 187 pound Florida State product who boasts 4.3-second speed in the 40 as well as the uncanny ability to make defenders miss.
“You would always like to have a couple of backs that complement each other, and I think he’ll complement a lot of our running backs and what they do,” Shanahan said about Thompson’s role.
But like Helu, Thompson also has durability issues. He was in the midst of a stellar 2012 campaign when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in late October. In fact, Thompson was ranked second in the ACC in rushing with 687 yards on 91 carries at the time of the injury. And in 2011, the native of Greenville, Fl., suffered fractures to his C5 and C6 vertebrae, though he says his back is no longer an issue.
When healthy, though, Thompson’s ability as a runner and a pass-catcher jump off the screen. In fact, he finished his Seminole career averaging 6.3 yards per rushing attempt, while also scoring 14 touchdowns and grabbing 45 catches.
NFLDraftScout.com praises his vision and elusiveness but raises concerns about his size.
Good speed and determination. Has the vision and quick footwork to make strong cuts and accelerate in one motion. Has a second gear and isn't afraid to lower his pads and get everything out of each run. Shifty feet and low center of gravity.
Strong durability issues. Undersized frame with only average bulk and lacks the frame to get much stronger. Runner you hold your breath every time he gets hit that he'll get back up. Needs to stay under control. How much punishment cant he take?
NFL.com, meantime, also says Thompson’s size could preclude him from becoming an every down back. But the website’s talent evaluators also rave about Thompson’s shiftiness and the determination he showed in rehab after the back injury.
Dangerous runner/receiver combination in the backfield able to make the big play. Comfortable behind a fullback in I-formation, follows off tackle the cuts back inside. Capable swing pass receiver, looks the catch into hands, and utilizes a quick move to make a tackler miss in space. Definitely at his best in the open field. Makes things happen if untouched at the second level, open footwork and makes tacklers miss with nice burst. Very patient on screen passes but tends to drift to the sideline. If the lane is there, he is a very decisive runner. Gives good effort when attempting to pickup blitzer, dives at inside leg.
This short highlight collection will give you a good idea of Thompson’s ability to accelerate, then hit the afterburners in full stride.
This video is a look at his nine-carry, 197-yard effort against Wake Forest last season. And, oh yeah, it should be noted that he did all that damage in less than a half.
Thompson will likely go head-to-head with Helu for the chance-of-pace running back job--if he is healthy enough. If not, he could start training camp on the PUP list and even start the season there. The practice squad is also a possibility if the Redskins think they can get him through waivers.
“That offense, I could feel real comfortable there,” Thompson said of watching the Redskins last season after learning the team had interest in him. “Being able to be in the gun and do things like the read option that are real dangerous. I think with my speed and my ability, it could be a real great option.”