Redskins practice featured a familiar face this week, as running back Chris Thompson returned in a limited capacity in preparation for an eventual return after battling turf toe for the past month.
A lot has changed since Thompson was last on the field against the Miami Dolphins. Case Keenum was the starting quarterback, and fellow running back Derrius Guice was still weeks away from being on the active roster.
Now, Thompson returns to practice with Dwayne Haskins under center for the rest of the year and Guice coming off his first-career touchdown against the New York Jets last weekend. As to where he fits in this new version of the Redskins’ offense, interim head coach Bill Callahan said “we’ll see.”
“I’m going to take a look at his practice and evaluate it again this afternoon and into tomorrow,” Callahan said on Thursday. “[We’ll] see how he feels tomorrow, see what he can and can’t do.”
Prior to suffering a toe injury earlier in the year, Thompson was a versatile piece to the Redskins’ offense. He offered a change of pace to starting running back Adrian Peterson by rushing for 79 yards on 23 carries for 3.4 yards per attempt.
He was more valuable as a pass catcher, though. Even though he has missed the past three games, he is still second on the team in receiving yards (276) and tied for second in receptions (27). He is fourth on the team in average yards per catch (10.2) and fourth in targets (38).
The Redskins have had a rotation of backs filling his spot for the past month, with Wendell Smallwood getting a bump in touches. He had 31 snaps against the Jets, which was 14 more than Peterson and 18 more than Guice.
Guice seemed to fit into Thompson’s role more effectively than Smallwood, though. He had 70 total yards against the Jets and even helped score the Redskins’ first touchdown in 16 quarters with a 45-yard catch and run off a screen play.
Take a look at practice photos from Thursday's practice for the upcoming Jets home game.
Regardless of how he’s used, Thompson wants to help his team, which has gone 0-4 in his absence.
It's just been tough watching,” Thompson said. “I feel like I'm hurting my guys if I'm not out there, and I feel like if I'm out there, I help bring a different look to our offense. Even if I'm not so much in the game plan, just to be a decoy and change the calls on the defensive side of the ball.”
Thompson was listed as a limited participant throughout the week. His workload included individual drills and work with the quarterbacks. Thompson said on Wednesday that he felt “pretty good” and wants to evaluate things on a daily basis.
“I’m just glad to be out there and working with my guys,” Thompson said. “It’s a painful injury. It’s a tough one to deal with. I’m trying to do everything I can to get back as quickly as possible.”
Thompson’s return will mean an even more crowded backfield, as Guice returned to the active roster during the team’s bye week. Thompson has seen what Guice can do and believes that he can be more than a two-down back.
“I think he’s a good route runner and pass catcher as well as a running back,” Thompson said. “He can do a lot of different things. I was just glad to see that out of him and then just to see him be able to finish a game healthy.”
Thompson will likely continue to be used in a similar role prior to his injury, and he sees more opportunities for him with offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell calling plays.
“He’s always trying to do everything he can to put us in the best situation possible,” Thompson said of O’Connell. “It gets me excited and anxious to get back, go out there and play, because he’s really added a lot of stuff.”
Callahan said Thompson’s return gives the offense a lot of options moving forward, though he is still making decisions on who will play against the Lions on Sunday.
“They all look good,” Callahan said. “We’ll make some decisions relative to who’s up or who’s down on Sunday. We have a lot of flexibility there.”
As for how the offense plans on balancing their snap counts and usage, Callahan added that it will depend upon the play concept.
“I think [running backs coach] Randy Jordan has done a tremendous job managing the backs throughout the course of the game, knowing when to inject them and when to substitute them in and out on their strengths and weaknesses and also by game plan dictation."
That doesn’t matter too much to Thompson, though; the only thing he cares about is helping get the team out of its 1-9 hole.
“We’ve got to figure out how to [turn] this thing around, because I love and respect all of these guys that are here in this organization, and I want to do everything I possibly can to help us get to the top as long as I’m here,” Thompson said.