Washington Redskins rookie running back Chris Thompson was a long shot to make the roster, considering the depth the Redskins already have at the position.
Alfred Morris is the undisputed starter who will continue to be the Redskins’ workhorse back. Morris’ carries will likely increase in 2013 to take pressure off of quarterback Robert Griffin III, who was also a major contributor to Washington’s top-ranked rushing offense in 2012.
Roy Helu Jr., Washington’s leading rusher in 2011, provides versatility as a pass receiver, which enhances his value to the Redskins’ offense. Evan Royster, the Redskins’ third-down back in 2012, is a solid third running back who will receive a fair amount of carries in 2013 as well.
That would leave Thompson as the odd man out in regards to the running back rotation.
However, Washington head coach Mike Shanahan is the type of coach that values versatility. Players in danger of being cut need to contribute in other areas to justify a roster spot. Thompson was inserted as a punt returner, replacing injured cornerback Richard Crawford. He responded with a 69-yard punt return for a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Redskins’ final preseason game.
Yes, it happened in a preseason game against players that may never play in the NFL again. Still, Thompson’s return provided a spark that a Redskins punt returner hasn’t provided for a long time. It was a huge psychological lift for Thompson, considering that he had fumbled twice while carrying the football as a running back in the preseason. Putting the ball on the ground as a rookie is a sure way not to make the opening day roster.
Thompson’s punt return against the Buccaneers was the equivalent of hitting a walk-off grand slam with two outs, two strikes, and a three-run deficit. As a result, he was added to Washington’s 53-man roster for the 2013 NFL season.
Thompson isn’t looked upon to become Chicago Bears punt returner Devin Hester, who is regarded as one of the best return men in NFL history. Nevertheless, earning a roster spot gives Thompson the opportunity to contribute to a Redskins team that has aspirations for a deep playoff run in 2013.
Redskins fans hope that electrifying return against the Buccaneers is only the tip of the iceberg for Thompson in the return game.