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Chris Thompson Assuming Veteran Leadership Among Young Running Backs

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With the departures of Alfred Morris and Darrel Young, running back Chris Thompson has taken it upon himself in training camp to share his knowledge with the large group of youngsters.

At 25, Chris Thompson is the self-described "old guy" in the Redskins' running backs group, a designation he assumed with the departures of Alfred Morris and Darrel Young in the offseason. But, as many of the team's young backs will attest, Thompson didn't gain that title by default.

The Washington Redskins offense conducted their second day of training camp practice Friday, July 29, 2016 at Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va

Carrying with him the knowledge and temperament he learned from Morris and Young over the last couple years, Thompson has entered training camp and his fourth year in the league more comfortable and capable taking on responsibilities of a role model.

"I will make mistakes, but I just want to show those young guys how I handle adversity," Thompsons said in June. "It'll be good for me to be able to help those guys."

During the spring, he couldn't lead too much by example. Recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Thompson had to sit out of practices and coach from the sideline as he watched Matt Jones, Keith Marshall and Robert Kelly try to grasp more of the offense. Observation only confirmed that the game was slowing down even more for Thompson.

And while head coach Jay Gruden hinted the Redskins may look into acquiring an older running back as the season approaches, Thompson has filled the void so far left by Morris and Young, imparting his wisdom and offensive tactics to his unit as best he can.

"I just try and stay in my lane, not overstep [running backs] coach [Randy] Jordan when he's coaching, but the young guys come to me a lot, asking me questions," Thompson said. "I'm at that point where I can help them all out, even helping Keith [Marshall] today with some simple things, and I think he's just still thinking a little too much. Being able to help him and the rest of the young guys out when we get together at practice today, it'll be good."

The effect has remained constant even though the style isn't the same. Morris was well-known to be a silent leader, doling out advice if players asked him for it. Thompson wouldn't be described as loud and aggressive, but he's not afraid to initiate conversation.

"Alfred was a quiet guy, so you had to ask him some stuff, but Chris he'll kind of come to you and let you know 'What is this?' 'What's going on?'" Jones said. "Alfred's quiet, Chris is more outspoken. They're different."

Jones admitted that sometimes he didn't want to ask Morris too many questions because he was such a quiet figure in the locker room. Thompson, he said, has relieved some of that burden because he's not afraid to ask Jones questions, too.

While Jones is a powerful, bruising back that showed signs of real burst last season (a 78-yard screen pass touchdown against the Saints, for example), Thompson is a smaller, shiftier third-down pass-catching back, capable of sliding through tiny holes for big gains, like his most notable 42-yard scamper up the middle against the Eagles in Week 4 last season.

"We actually kind of learn from each other because our game's kind of different," Jones said. "He's a speedster, so I kind of ask him some questions, he asks me some questions about power, so I do still learn from Chris Thompson, don't take me wrong. He's an older guy for me, but we still feed off each other."

"I think Chris Thompson is really the veteran of that room," Gruden said. "High-class, high-character type of runner. Very dependable, accountable, and he's everything you want. We just have got to keep him healthy, obviously. But Matt Jones is coming along in his second year. A lot of the times you see these guys – I mentioned it last year – from the first year to the second year, a lot of the times you see the biggest jump in production and confidence and all that."

That Thompson is still young and in the prime of his career is a calming factor for Kelly, who, in the midst of trying to make an NFL roster, doesn't feel pressure bothering Thompson for advice.

"I feel like if you're around older guys on their way out of the door, they feel like the young guys are going to take over something," Kelly said. "It varies. There are some older guys that say everything, but you don't have that aspect [here] because everybody's young.

"We all can relate to each other, we all know what everybody's going through. It's kind of different."

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