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Need to Know: Has Thompson locked up the Redskins' third-down back job?

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Need to Know: Has Thompson locked up the Redskins' third-down back job?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, August 9, four days before Washington Redskins open their preseason against the Browns in Cleveland.

If you need to catch up on what's happening in Richmond, scroll to the bottom for a list of our posts from the last 24 hours. 

Has Thompson locked up the Redskins' third-down back job?

RICHMOND—When Roy Helu left as a free agent March, the Redskins started to look for a new third-down back.

As things are turning out perhaps the Redskins didn’t have to look very far.

They drafted running back Chris Thompson in the fifth round in 2013. Despite possessing impressive speed, Thompson slid in the draft due to the issues he had staying healthy. Those issues continued for his first two years in the league, allowing him very limited playing time.

But this year Thompson has not missed a practice and is impressing Jay Gruden.

“I think Chris Thompson is really starting to emerge as a third-down back, if we can obviously keep him healthy,” said Gruden. “He’s done an excellent both in the running game and the passing game and he’s done an excellent job in protection so far.”

The Florida State product has been impressive both running the ball, displaying good quickness and a knack for being able to find open spaces, and catching passes out of the backfield.

Last year Thompson had a chance to make the team but he wound up on the practice squad for all but the last three games of the season.

“The one thing that’s different from last year is that I’m really not pressing and worrying about it too much,” he said. “I spoke about not worrying about it last year but I really didn’t mean it. This year, I’m really not pressing so hard about it. I’m just coming out here, doing what I know I can do best, continuing to get better, and let it go from there.”

Thompson knows that he will have to make the most of limited opportunities if he should win the job.

“Being that third down guy, you’ve got to make something happen while getting 10 or less touches,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m focusing on every day when I’m out here, when I get a rep I want to make it a good one.”

Right now it looks like rookie Matt Jones is Thompson’s main competition for the third-down role with another rookie, Trey Williams, coming in as a dark horse. But Jones appears to be headed for a role to get some carries in relief of Alfred Morris and Williams has a lot to learn.

When the third-down back isn’t carrying the ball or catching a pass he is usually pass blocking. Thompson is very proud of the progress he has made in that area since coming into the league.

“I’m way more confident about it,” he said. “[Running backs] Coach [Randy] Jordan has been helping me for almost two years now. He’s told me he’s seen my improvement and I can see it also with my leverage and everything. I think that comes with me having more confidence in my body. I was a little bit worried about the shoulder coming into training camp last year but now I’m not worrying about injuries because I can’t control that stuff.”

 

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Off day

—It’s been 224 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 35 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Browns 4; final cuts 27; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 46

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In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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