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The 53: Who's going to be the returner?

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The 53: Who's going to be the returner?

Over the past week weve gone through the Redskins defense position by position and Ive given you my prediction on who will make the team and who will be joining the ranks of the nations unemployed when the final cuts take place on Sept. 1. Lets take a quick look back at the defense and specialists to tie up a few loose ends.My projected roster has six defensive linemen, 10 linebackers and nine defensive backs for a total of 25 defenders. Add in the three specialists and the 25 on offense and there are your 53 players.Having an equal number of offensive and defensive players is the norm but it is not a rule. In summing up the offensive roster I speculated that the Redskins could choose to keep an extra running back, tight end, or offensive linemen and go with one less defensive player. That probably would be a linebacker under the scenario I have posted.But, by the same token they could decide to go with an imbalanced roster with the numbers in favor of the defense. Is a fifth safety or a seventh lineman more valuable than a sixth wide receiver or even a third quarterback? Shanahan says that he keeps the best 53 football players and while you have to keep a certain minimum number at each position you certainly have some flexibility on the last two or three roster spots.As noted when discussing the linebackers, its entirely possible that 10 is too many to have there. So perhaps a spot for a fifth safety, perhaps Reed Doughty or Jordan Bernstine, could come at the expense or Chris Wilson or Jonathan Goff.One question that has gone unaddressed here is who will return kicks. I dont have Brandon Banks making the team and he has returned virtually every kick for the Redskins for the past two seasons. We will write more about who will return both before camp and as the preseason unfolds but right now, the pick here is Aldrick Robinson.He didnt do a whole lot of returning at SMUjust five kickoff returns in four yearsbut ESPNs Todd McShay had him rated as the best return prospect in the 2011 draft.Anthony Armstrong and Jordan Bernstine are two other candidates for the job. And Banks certainly has a fighting chance of staying around.SpecialistsIn (3): P Sav Rocca, LS Nick Sundberg, PK Graham Gano
Out: PK Neil RackersDefensive backsCornerback (5): DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, Cedric Griffin, Richard Crawford, Chase Minnifield
Safety (4): Brandon Meriweather, Tanard Jackson, Madieu Williams, DeJon Gomes
Out: Kevin Barnes, Brandyn Thompson, Morgan Trent, Jordan Bernstine, Travon Bellamy, Reed DoughtyLinebackersIn (10): Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan, Rob Jackson, Markus White, Chris Wilson, London Fletcher, Perry Riley, Lorenzo Alexander, Keenan Robinson, Jonathan Goff
Out: Donnell Holt, Bryan Kehl, Brian McNally, Monte LewisDefensive lineIn (6): Stephen Bowen, Jarvis Jenkins, Adam Carriker, Kedric Golston, Barry Cofield, Chris Neild
Out: Darrion Scott, Kentwan Balmer, Doug Worthington, Chris Baker, Delvin JohnsonOffenseRunning backsIn (4): Roy Helu Jr., Tim Hightower, Evan Royster, Darrell Young
Out: Tristan Davis, Alfred Morris, Antwon Bailey, Lennon CreerTight endsIn (3): Fred Davis, Niles Paul, Chris Cooley
Out: Logan Paulsen, Richard Quinn, Beau RelifordWide receiversIn (6): Anthony Armstrong, Pierre Garon, Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Santana Moss, Aldrick Robinson
Out: Brandon Banks, Terrence Austin, Darius Hanks, Brian Hernandez, Lance Lewis, Samuel KirklandQuarterbacksIn (3): Robert Griffin III, Rex Grossman, Kirk Cousins
Out: Jonathan CromptonOffensive lineIn (9): Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Chris Chester, Jammal Brown, Willie Smith, Tyler Polumbus, Josh LeRibeus, Tom Compton
Out: Erik Cook, Grant Garner, Adam Gettis, Maurice Hurt, Nevin McCaskill, James Lee, Nick MartinezRich Tandler blogs about the Redskins at www.RealRedskins.com. You can reach him by email here and follow him on Twitter @Rich_Tandler.

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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

MORE REDSKINS: TEAM IS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE WITH PLANS FOR NEW STADIUM

He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

RELATED: RANKING THE TOP ROOKIE QBS FOR FANTASY FOOTBALL

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Fantasy football: Ranking the top eight rookie quarterbacks in 2017

Fantasy football: Ranking the top eight rookie quarterbacks in 2017

Rookie camps are in the books as teams now move to organized team activities. Does that mean it's too early for fantasy football rankings? 

Probably, but seeing as the rookies are new to the scene, we might as well start projecting where and how they fit. 

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S 2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL ROOKIE QB RANKINGS

Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Sterling Shepard and Michael Thomas were among the rookies who produced and then some in 2016.

Based on the early rounds of the 2017 NFL draft, there’s hope for even more first-year standouts.  

Starting with the Bears selecting quarterback Mitch Trubisky second overall, 19 skill players were drafted in the first and second round.

That includes fellow first-round quarterback selections Pat Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Several sleeper candidates followed. 

Here’s my look at the Elite Eight quarterbacks with the 2017 fantasy football season -- and beyond -- in mind.

CLICK HERE FOR CSN'S 2017 FANTASY FOOTBALL ROOKIE QB RANKINGS

2017 Fantasy Football Rookie Rankings:

Running Backs - No. 1, Leonard Fournette, Jaguars

* Wide receivers - No. 1, Corey Davis, Titans