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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

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He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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Adrian Peterson's impressive day vs. the Panthers wasn't exactly supposed to happen

Adrian Peterson's impressive day vs. the Panthers wasn't exactly supposed to happen

When you don't hear from someone you wanted to hear from, you typically follow up.

But on Sunday during the Redskins' 23-17 win over the Panthers, Jay Gruden actually didn't follow up with Adrian Peterson about a plan the two first discussed leading up to kickoff.

Everyone associated with burgundy and gold should be OK with that, however, after seeing how things played out.

During his weekly, exclusive interview with JP Finlay on the Redskins Talk podcast, Gruden explained how Peterson's injury situation almost prevented the running back from posting his crucial 17-carry, 97-yard stat line. 

"I talked to him before the game, had a sit-down with him," the head coach said. "I told him I was probably only gonna use him on short-yardage and goal line if that, you know? Because I want him to heal, we have a long season ahead of us." 

Heading into Week 6, Peterson was dealing with shoulder, ankle and knee issues. Plus, he's 33 years old at a position where that number is way more common on a player's jersey than in his bio under "age."

So, Gruden's concern made some sense, especially considering how necessary a productive Peterson has been to the 'Skins' success in 2018. Problem is, the two never connected again, so the coach's pitch count was never executed.

"He says, 'Oh, just let me go early, I'll let you know how I'm doing,'" Gruden recalled. "We let him go early and I never heard from him so I just kept him in there. He played great. He's a pro, he's a stud."

For those of you now wondering if this means you should start ignoring emails from your boss or not text your buddy back and still expect success, let's not get too carried away here. In this instance, a lack of communication worked for the future Hall of Famer, but that doesn't mean it's going to work for you.

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The Redskins releasing Ziggy Hood could mean the return of Stacy McGee

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The Redskins releasing Ziggy Hood could mean the return of Stacy McGee

The Redskins released veteran defensive lineman Ziggy Hood on Tuesday, and in a vacuum, that's not major news. 

Hood has been a strong locker room presence for Washington for the last three seasons. He's played mostly out of position at nose tackle during his time with the Redskins, but he didn't complain and worked hard.

Still, Hood is a 31-year-old defensive lineman and was the last man in the Redskins rotation. 

While the Washington coaches and staff will all have plenty of good things to say about Hood, with the vocal emergence of second-year pro Jonathan Allen, Hood's leadership skills became less valuable.

It's probably not a coincidence, however, that 28-year-old Stacy McGee must come off the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list this week. McGee underwent surgery for a groin injury this offseason and was unable to practice throughout preseason.

In turn, the Redskins placed him on the PUP list, which meant he could not practice or play for the first six weeks of the season. 

Well, check the calendar — it's Week 7.

At 6-foot-3 and 339 lbs., McGee is bigger and younger than Hood. McGee is also carrying a $4.8 million cap hit this season, where Hood counted for $1.7 million.

It's the NFL and it'a a cutthroat business. 

McGee is now eligible to return to practice, and if he's ready, the active roster. If he's not ready, the Redskins have three weeks of practice time to let him continue to work back into shape.

Washington could also send McGee to the injured reserve list (ending his season) or release him. But neither of these options are expected.

Throughout the beginning of the season, McGee has been a fixture at Redskins Park, both in the weight room and on the practice fields. 

Last year, McGee played all 16 games for the Redskins and logged 44 tackles. Other players talked up his ability to absorb double team blocks, freeing up linebackers to make tackles.

Pro Football Focus graded McGee as +2.6 for the 2017 season, where Hood graded out at -26.3.

There are other options as well.

Maybe the Redskins want to give Caleb Brantley more opportunities. The team was high on Brantley going into the 2017 NFL Draft before an off-field accusation caused him to slip on draft boards. Washington signed him during roster cuts after he as released from Cleveland, but he's yet to make a gameday 46 for the Redskins. 

It's also possible the Redskins have identified another player, either a free agent or a practice squad player on another team. 

One free agent that seems wildly unlikely to fill Hood's roster spot: Junior Galette. 

While plenty of Redskins fans want to see Galette return to the Burgundy and Gold, remember, Galette plays outside linebacker and his greatest asset is speed of the edge. Whoever replaces Hood needs to be a big body, serving as a space eater along the defensive line. 

Think of it this way: Galette is a Ferrari. Hood is an F-350.

You don't want an F-350 on the race track, or a Ferrari hauling firewood. 

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