Thompson tops list of standouts vs. Bills

Thompson tops list of standouts vs. Bills
August 25, 2013, 7:45 am
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Thompson looking to bounce back after fumbles

Chris Thompson’s brief NFL career flashed before his eyes in the third quarter of Saturday’s 30-7 preseason victory over the Bills.

In only his second preseason game, on only his seventh professional carry, the fifth-round draft pick fumbled. The ball was recovered by teammate Dezmon Briscoe, but for a moment, it looked as though Thompson had dropped the ball – literally – on his chances of securing a spot on the roster.

“Honestly, I was like aw man, this might be my last opportunity on the field for this game,” Thompson told me during a Postgame Live interview on CSN Washington. “I’m just glad the coaches gave me the opportunity to go back out there.”

As it turned out, the Redskins’ coaches were glad, too.

On his next two attempts, Thompson showed his speed and elusiveness with carries of six and nine yards.

Then he provided the highlight of the game.

Thompson ran up about 10 yards to field Shawn Powell’s punt on the fly. Two sharp cuts later, Thompson was in the open field. The return ended up being for 31 yards – and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the player or the team.

Thompson needed to redeem himself. And the Redskins suddenly found themselves seeking a punt returner after Richard Crawford suffered a season-ending knee injury late in the first quarter.

“Funny story: I didn’t realize that I was running up,” Thompson said. “I ran up like 10 yards to catch it. I thought I took a step or two. I’m glad there were no guys in my face to knock me out or knock the ball loose. I’m glad Coach [Keith] Burns gave me the opportunity to go back there.”

Added Coach Mike Shanahan: “I was really impressed on his punt return after he did fumble the ball [because] he had no fear catching that punt return and almost broke it for a touchdown. A lot of guys after they fumble, they’re concentrating so much on their mistake, they can’t focus on catching the punt return. So that was very impressive.”

Indeed, it was. Thompson, though, wasn’t the only player to impress in Saturday's dress rehearsal. Here are five others whose stock is on the rise just one week before teams must trim their rosters to the final 53:

  • Roy Helu Jr. Although he had probably already wrapped up the No. 2 running back job behind Alfred Morris, Helu left nothing to chance. He carried the ball 13 times for 70 yards (5.4 average), including a long of 17, and also hauled in a 21-yard reception. “I thought the first preseason game he played he looked good,” Shanahan said. “But today, I though he looked even better.”
  • Darryl Tapp. Signed as insurance after outside linebacker Rob Jackson was suspended for the first four games, Tapp is showing he’s more than merely a placeholder. The converted defensive end finished with a team-leading seven combined tackles, a sack and a pass defended. “He’s a great guy and gives everything he has to this football team,” Shanahan said. “He’s going to help us win.”
  • Aldrick Robinson. The third-year wide receiver needed a big game, and he delivered. Robinson hauled in four receptions (on five targets) for 61 yards, including a long of 21. More important, each of his receptions resulted in a double-digit gain as well as a first down. “I though he really took advantage of [his] opportunity,” Shanahan said. “He looked good.”
  • Pat White entered the game as the Redskins’ fourth quarterback, and despite another solid effort, remains the team’s fourth QB. But after three years out of the game, the 27-year-old might force talent evaluators around the NFL to take a second look. He directed three scoring drives and earned an endorsement from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, who wrote on Twitter: “Another unlikely QB story: Redskins QB Pat White looks roster-spot worthy.”
  • Bryan Kehl, a versatile linebacker and special teams contributor, ended up tied with rookie David Amerson for the second most combined tackles with five. In three games, the 29-year-old has a team-leading 15 combined tackles and 1½ sacks. A year ago, he was one of the final cuts before returning to Washington following a stint with the Chiefs. This time, he might not need to take such a circuitous path. “Pretty good,” Shanahan said of Kehl’s effort. “I thought he played well.”

They all made strong arguments as the Redskins improved 3-0 and the roster begins to come into focus.

The strongest case, however, was made by Thompson. He returned a kickoff 27 yards and took back three punts for 48 yards (16.0 average). Thompson hasn’t returned punts since high school, but he said Crawford has tutored him on the finer points of reading punts in the NFL. And now with Crawford sidelined, Thompson’s best route to the regular season roster could be as a return specialist.

It’s not exactly how Thompson envisioned earning his first job in the NFL. But his versatility may ultimately prove to be his saving grace.

“He’s a young guy with a lot of ability,” Shanahan said.