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Shanahan: Redskins are 'all in'

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Shanahan: Redskins are 'all in'

Since returning from the bye week, there’s been an increased sense of urgency around the Redskins' Ashburn, Va., headquarters, Coach Mike Shanahan said Friday.

And that urgency has translated into more focused efforts in practice, the classroom and, most improtant, on game day.

“There’s definitely a sense of urgency when you know that you cannot stumble,” Shanahan said, 24 hours after his team prevailed 38-31 at Cowboys Stadium. “You got to go out and win each week and it starts with the present game. That mindset has been there. There’s a good sense of urgency that everybody’s got to play their best game, that everybody has got to do what they’re capable of doing, for all 46 guys that are out there playing.”

When the players left Redskins Park for a five-day hiatus following a season-threatening 21-13 loss to the Panthers earlier this month, the team's record had plummeted to 3-6 and a second half run looked unlikely. Since returning, however, they've posted back-to-back victories over the Eagles and Cowboys and vaulted into a second place tie in the NFC East with Dallas. And if the Giants lose at home to the Packers on Sunday, Washington and New York will meet on Dec. 3 with first place in the division on the line.

“I think we’re ‘all in’ as a football team, and that’s given us a chance to play well on Sunday,” Shanahan said. “When your backs are against the wall and there’s no room for error, guys have to step up.”

He added: “That is what’s happened the last couple of weeks; guys have played at a very high level and played for a full 60 minutes. Not saying each [game] was perfect. But you can see guys playing extremely hard and fighting for each other and giving it everything they’ve got. That’s what we have to keep on doing. We have to play at that level. We have to have everybody all in. We know what’s at stake. Nobody can let up and have a bad game.”

The turnaround, Shanahan pointed out, started at the top.

Following the loss to the Panthers on Nov. 4, quarterback Robert Griffin III vowed in the postgame news conference to emerge from the bye a better player. He urged his teammates to do the same.

So far, Griffin has delivered on his promise. In the past two games, Griffin has passed for eight touchdowns and one interception. He’s also starting to be mentioned in conversations about this season's league MVP.

“When he came back from the bye week, he said, ‘Hey, our backs are against the wall. We know what we’ve got to get done and I’m going to be playing my best football,” Shanahan said. “That’s what leaders do. That’s what captains do. They say, ‘Hey, I’m going to play my best football and I expect the guys around me to play their best football.’” 

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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