In the coming weeks, Redskins Insider Tarik El-Bashir will take a look at the seven members of Washington’s 2013 draft class, grade their rookie season and examine their future prospects.
Today, we’re evaluating running back/returner Chris Thompson.
Drafted: 5th round (154th overall)
Stats: 7 punt returns (5.1 yards per) and 8 kickoff returns (20 yards per)
2013: Thompson punched his ticket to the 53-man roster with a 69-yard touchdown punt return for a touchdown against the Buccaneers in the preseason finale.
The momentum from that breakthrough return, however, did not translate to the regular season.
Although he was sure-handed and, at times, showed shiftiness and speed, Thompson did not use those assets to shake the first would-be tackler often enough. Other times, he appeared indecisive or simply did not locate the seam quickly enough. In fact, Thompson’s longest punt return was an 11-yarder and longest kickoff return was for 28 yards.
But considering how poorly the Redskins’ special teams units performed across the board, I’m inclined to cut him a little slack.
Thompson’s lack of production, though, didn’t turn out to be his biggest hurdle. Instead, it was his health. Again. After suffering serious back and knee injuries at Florida State, the 5 foot 7, 192-pound rookie finally got healthy toward the end of training camp. But a shoulder injury he sustained in the preseason ended up eventually needing surgery. He did not suit up after Week 4.
He also did not take a snap from scrimmage in 2013.
Prospects: Thompson told CSNWashington.com late last month that his shoulder has healed fully and he’ll be ready for the offseason program. His surgically repaired knee should also be better. That’s good news for a player who could find himself on the roster bubble.
The Redskins have a new head coach and a new special teams coordinator and Thompson will have to prove himself as a returner and/or as a scatback. (Another running back drafted in 2013, Jawan Jamison, was waived on Tuesday.)
Right now both the punt and kickoff returner jobs appear to be wide open. Nick Williams didn’t distinguish himself when given an opportunity last season. Richard Crawford, who is primarily a punt returner, is coming off a serious knee injury and remains a question mark. So the opportunity for Thompson to seize one or both jobs could be there—as long as the team doesn’t sign a proven returner in free agency. And given the team’s struggles last year, that would seem to be a possibility.