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New threat emerges as Redskins backfield grows from two to three-headed monster


New threat emerges as Redskins backfield grows from two to three-headed monster

FEDEX FIELD - Coming into Sunday's Week 4 matchup against the Eagles, the Redskins running back situation seemed a competition between veteran Alfred Morris and rookie Matt Jones.

By the end of Washington's dramatic win over Philadelphia, a new name emerged in the running back discussion: Chris Thompson.

The third-year pro from Florida State gave the Redskins a big boost in the first half with 70 total yards, including a huge play on the Redskins first drive. Backed up deep in their own territory, Washington faced a 3rd & 19 when Thompson busted more than 40 yards on a draw play.


"He got us out of so many situations," Morris said after the game of Thompson. "That was huge."

Morris explained how much Thompson's play meant for the 'Skins.

"I was saying "Chris, great job,'" Morris said. "He is a playmaker. We need more of that."

Redskins coach Jay Gruden explained that less and less of the NFL can rely on a single running back, and the plan for the Redskins is to keep their runners fresh and ride the hot hand.

"I think that's the way it's got to be," Gruden said. "The days of football where you have one guy getting 42 carries a game are numbered."

Early on Sunday against the Eagles, that meant a lot of Thompson.

"All week they were telling me they were going to give me chances," Thompson said. "With the opportunities I got, I wanted to make the best of them."

Thompson brings a unique blend of size, speed and pass catching ability that the other two players can't exactly replicate. Jones explained that Washington even put some items in the game plan against the Eagles to get Thompson the ball. It showed.

"I love it," Thompson said of his increased role. "The more reps and the more work I get on the field, I stay warmed up and feel comfortable."

Like most things in the NFL, just when it looked like the Redskins backfield would be the Morris and Jones show, things changed.

"This 16-game season is a grind," Gruden said. "We need two, three backs to carry the load. We have some specialty plays for Chris Thompson, and obviously, Matt and Alfred are both capable runners."

For a player that was not a certainty to make the roster coming out of preseason, Thompson has carved out a good role in the Redskins offense. Last season Roy Helu got most reps in the two-minute and hurry up packages, and now it seems Thompson has wrapped up that spot. In his previous two season, injuries threatened to derail Thompson's Redskins career, but so far in 2015 with reasonable health, Thompson is proving his worth for the franchise.

The win over the Eagles marked career highs in carries and rush yards, and the 42-yard scamper on the early draw play was the longest run of Thompson's career. 

"The intent is to play the hot-hand," Gruden said of his RBs. "I like all three backs, and I think they all bring something to our football team in a positive way."

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein,

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

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Paul Richardson's Redskins contract is team friendly early

The Redskins’ contract with wide receiver Paul Richardson is very team friendly in the first year but it increases over the years to the point where he needs to be a very productive receiver in order to justify staying on the roster.

The big picture of the deal is $40 million over five years. A total of $12.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing, which is comprised of a $10 million signing bonus, his $1.5 million 2018 salary, and $1 million of his $5 million 2019 salary.

More money will become guaranteed if Richardson is on the roster as of five days after the start of the league years in 2019 and 2020. The remaining $4 million of his 2019 salary and $3.5 million of his $6 million 2020 salary become guaranteed on those dates.


Richardson will get salaries of $7.5 million in 2021 and 2022. Each year of the contract he can earn $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($31,250 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster).

It all adds up to the following salary cap numbers:

2018: $4 million
2019: $7.5 million
2020: $8.5 million
2021: $10 million
2022: $10 million

The average annual value of the contract is $8 million, which is tied for 24th among NFL receivers.

The first window the Redskins have to terminate Richardson’s contract without taking a negative cap hit would be in 2020 as long as they do it prior to the fifth day of the league year when the partial salary guarantee kicks in. They would take a $6 million deal cap hit but they would save a net of $2.5 million.

The last two years, when the cap numbers are at their highest, the Redskins could easily move on, saving $6 million in cap space in 2021 and $8 million in 2022.


Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.