RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC) — The numbers are working against Redskins running back Chris Thompson.
Alfred Morris is the clear starter, Roy Helu Jr. an established backup and, early in training camp, coach Jay Gruden expressed his admiration for fullback Darrel Young. While Evan Royster is fighting a hamstring strain, that still leaves 2014 draft pick Lache Seastrunk in the mix for what is likely one last spot at running back.
Thompson isn’t conceding anything despite an uneven rookie season. He returned a punt for a touchdown in a preseason game against Tampa Bay last Aug. 29 to clinch a roster spot, but didn’t see a down from scrimmage in the regular season.
Thompson was strictly a return man before a nagging shoulder injury required surgery and ended his year in November.
For a 5-foot-8, 193-pound player whose durability was already in question after a back injury ended his junior year at Florida State in 2011 and an ACL tear did the same in 2012, that was a bitter pill. Thompson finally felt like his old self before learning he needed surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 8.
“Actually, I stopped questioning [the knee] last season like a week before I had my shoulder surgery,” Thompson said. “I was actually hitting a year [after surgery] at that time.”
Maybe the extra months of rest have helped that knee become even stronger. Thompson hasn’t been perfect through the first four days of training camp. But he has made some plays during the 11-on-11 portions of practice as the Redskins have added to his workload to get him the ball.
“He’s a dynamic, in space guy that can run between the tackles,” quarterback Robert Griffin III said. “But if you really want him to go out there and do what he can do, we want him to be our Darren Sproles, to come out of the backfield and run routes, be a change-of-pace back for us. He’s dynamically fast. I think everybody is gonna see that this year as opposed to last year. And he’s got good hands, runs good routes. He’s got confidence back in his body.”
Thompson still must show the coaches that he’s solid in pass protection, that he has the system down pat and that his all-important speed has returned. He admits he’ll never be as fast as Seastrunk.
“And I’m not afraid of admitting that,” Thompson said. “Lache is at another level with his speed.”
But Seastrunk, a sixth-round draft pick out of Baylor, isn’t exactly polished in all those areas, either, and Thompson does have the versatility of a return man, though he struggled in that area last year before becoming a regular on the inactive list. With Royster struggling just to get back onto the field and Seastrunk a work-in-progress, the fight is ongoing. It could be one that goes down to the final day of preseason.
“It may be. Honestly, I haven’t been focusing on that at all,” Thompson said. “I can come out and practice hard and give it my all every single day, but at the end of the day it’s all up to the coaches what they want to do. All I can do at this point is keep practicing and get better at practice and stay healthy and just leave it up to the coaches after that last preseason game.”
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