While checking out a few Redskins message boards I noticed many fans pegging Chris Thompson as just a third down pass receiver out of the backfield. While I agree he gives Washington a dynamic pass threat from the Running Back position, he is at his best running the football, and he will add an explosive element to the Redskins running attack in 2013.
A casual observer would look at Alfred Morris and Chris Thompson as a the Redskins version of “Thunder and Lightning” but they are not as different as you might think. In fact they share a lot of common traits but one just works at a different speed than the other. Morris and Thompson both have great patience,vision, balance, cutting ability, and one cut discipline to excel in the Shanahan zone run game. Both backs also never go out of bounds on their own and always stay in bounds fighting for yards.Fact is that Chris Thompson has everything Mike Shanahan looks for in a Running Back and then some.
So what separates Thompson from Morris?
What separates Thompson from Morris is the ability to set defenders up cutting on a dime at full speed. Straight line speed is nice but Thompsons ability to be explosive in and out of lateral movements all while reading the next level of defenders is unique and exciting. You miss one tackle on this guy and he will be in the endzone.
One of the question marks on Thompson is how successful can he be in the NFL at 5’8″ and 187 lbs? The answer is extremely successful in the Redskins offense. Many people like to compare him to Darren Sproles, but the player Thompson’s game resembles the most is Warrick Dunn who had a great career at 5’9″ and 187 lbs. There is over 8 hours of coaching videos on youtube.com with Alex Gibbs teaching the wide zone to the Florida Gators coaching staff under former coach Urban Myer. In these videos Alex Gibbs praises Warrick Dunn as one of the best Running Backs ever to run his system along with Terrell Davis and Former Redskins Clinton Portis. Watching these videos will give you a good idea about how Thompsons skill set will be on display in Washington.
Fans are wondering how quick Thompson can learn the offense and how he fits in the run scheme. I figured I could talk about or simplify things by showing you so Lets get started.
Florida State lines up in the Pistol formation which should look very familiar to Redskins fans. This play is similar to one of the favorite Redskin plays from the 2012 season, zone read bluff. Florida State doesn’t use the zone read on this play but the Quarterback and Thompson both open away from the intended hole. The goal is to open backside lanes by getting the defense to over commit on the front side of the play. Thompson vision, quickness, and cutting ability are all on display here.
Here are the Redskins gutting the Baltimore Ravens with zone read bluff from the pistol formation.
Florida State runs an outside zone which showcases Thompson’s speed to out run pursuit angles to get to the edge of the defense.
The Redskins tried to use the outside zone read over the course of the 2012 season but did not have a back with the right skill set to make these plays a successful element in the offense.
Here is Evan Royster running wide zone from the Pistol Formation. This is a play that I feel could’ve gone for a huge gain or even 6 points with Thompson in the backfield. Everything added up to a big play except Royster was a little indecisive and lacks the speed to take advantage of small creases in the defense.
The All-22 shows the alley with 2 blockers downfield and a possible 1 on 1 matchup with former Ravens safety ED Reed. Reed is a great player but it is no secret he has struggled tackling in the open field in the later years of his career. The Redskins won the game but I’m excited for the ability to hit on some of the big plays missed in the 2012 season.
Here is Thompson in the base wide zone run scheme. On this play he goes for 60+ but it was called back for holding. So why did I show you a play that was called back for holding.. Check out the play after the penalty.
Florida state shows the same formation while motioning to the opposite side of the field. Miami counters with a late rotation of their safeties and next you know Chris Thompson sets a school record for the longest touchdown run vs the Miami Hurricanes at 91 yards.
Here we have Thompson showing off the decision making,vision, and speed burning Wake Forest in the wide zone game. Thompson only needs a small crease to make you pay and that element added to Washington’s other weapons will cause issues for defenses.
Similar Play as Thompson ran above but Morris isn’t the type of back that will use speed to out run pursuit angles of defenders. Love some Alfred Morris and what he brings to the field on Sundays but his strength is getting his shoulders square and into the second level of a defense asap.
I don’t know about you but I’m excited to see the Redskins new toys at work this season. You can’t teach heart, speed, and play making ability, and I feel Chris Thompson brings all the above to Washington.
I suggest reading “Fun With Weapons: Chris Thompson Can Take Redskins Offense Over The Top” by KC Clyburn’s article for more on what to expect from Chris Thompson.