They have a veteran coach in his third season with his second NFL team with precious little to show for the first two years. They have a quarterback who had a breakout performance in his first extended NFL action. And they started the season with nobody expecting anything out of them.That is a description of the 2012 Redskins with Mike Shanahan coming off of 11 wins in two seasons and Robert Griffin III having a big game against the Saints in his NFL debut.But that also describes the 1999 St. Louis Rams. Dick Vermeil, who took the Eagles to a Super Bowl appearance in 1980, had returned to coach the Rams in 1997 after a much longer hiatus than the one year that Shanahan took off. After not coaching in the NFL from 1983 through 1996, Vermeil took the reigns of the Rams and immediately left the impression that he should have stayed retired. St. Louis won five and four games in his first two seasons.But things were different in 1999 when Kurt Warner started the season at quarterback. He came into the opener against the Ravens with just 11 career pass attempts but he passed for 309 yards and three touchdowns as the Rams beat Baltimore. He went on to pass for over 4300 yards and 41 touchdowns that year on the way to the Pro Bowl and first-team All-NFL honors.I think you see where Im going here but Im not going to go very far down that road. The 2012 Redskins have some work to do before they become a 21st-century edition of The Greatest Show on Turf. Those Rams averaged almost 33 points per game, won their first six games, finished the regular season 13-3, and won Super Bowl XXXIV.The 99 Rams had a couple of assets on offense that this Redskins team does not appear to have. Alfred Morris might have a nice rookie season but hes no Marshall Faulk, who was in the prime of his Hall of Fame career. And the Redskins dont have a receiver who is nearly as accomplished as Isaac Bruce was at that point in his career. Bruce was 27 that year and he already had posted a 119-catch season (1995) where he gained over 1700 yards.But the 99 Rams do serve as a reminder that a struggling franchise with an old-school coach can turn things around in a hurry with an injection of improved quarterback play. Again, the Redskins have a long way to go before becoming The Greatest Show II but stranger things have happened.
You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.
But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.
“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.
“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”
The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.
In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.
“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”
Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.
Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.
“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”
Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday.
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Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.
That lasted seven games.
By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.
With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team.
#Redskins RB Matt Jones will not be at OTAs, source said. He was a healthy scratch most of last year, doesn’t appear part of their plans.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 24, 2017
In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.
Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.
Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role.
Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.
The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.
It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie.
Life comes at you quick in the NFL.
Jones is a clear example of that.
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