On most days, it really doesn’t matter what opposing tailback comes charging through the line of scrimmage at Seahawks’ All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.
If he is big like Rob Kelley, the Washington Redskins’ powerful running back, Wagner says there is more area to put a lick on.
But if he is smaller like Chris Thompson — the NFL leader in yards from scrimmage (673) for passing-down running backs — that can present a different challenge entirely.
“At the end of the day, it is probably easier to hit the bigger guy,” Wagner said. “Facing a smaller guy, you have to really make sure your fundamentals and technique are good because you don’t want to get embarrassed.”
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When the Redskins come to CenturyLink Field on Sunday to face the Seahawks, Thompson will likely be a big part of the game plan.
In seven games this season, Thompson has been held to less than 50 combined rushing-receiving yards just once — by the Kansas City Chiefs in a 29-20 Redskins loss.
In four of those games, the fifth-year pro out of Florida State has totaled 90 or more yards, which includes a 150-yard receiving effort against Oakland, and a 105-yard receiving day against San Francisco.
“Chris Thompson is as quick and electric as you can watch,” said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, who faced Thompson’s Seminoles team twice while at North Carolina State in the ACC.
And yet he still isn’t a big name around the league.
“This was the first time I had heard about him,” Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright said. “Kirk Cousins and him have good chemistry out there. They have a lot of plays that he runs.
“He can also run like a regular running back.”
Thompson has received the most offensive snaps (242) of any Redskins running back, and is the only player in the NFL that leads his team in rushing (231 yards) and receiving (league-leading 442 yards for running backs).
And he is also the team’s top pass protector, according to Redskins coach Jay Gruden.
“His stature (5-foot-8, 191 pounds) might be small-ish to some people, but he plays big for us,” Gruden said. “We still like our chances with Chris just about against anybody.”
Whereas Thompson paces the league for passing-down backs, the Seahawks lag way behind in that area of production.
Of the 20 NFL teams that employ a third-down tailback, the Seahawks’ tandem of J.D. McKissic (147) and C.J. Prosise (107) rank 17th in total yards.
A big reason for that is Prosise’s rash of injuries. The Notre Dame product has been active for just 10 of Seattle’s 25 games during his career.
Two weeks ago, Prosise reinjured a nagging ankle injury after just two snaps against the New York Giants. He missed last week’s come-from-behind victory against Houston.
But Prosise has been practicing this week, and said he was “feeling great” before practice Thursday.
“Once I get over this ankle issue, I am excited for the second half of the season,” Prosise said. “I think I will come in and make a big impact for us.”
In the meantime, Prosise has had plenty of time to watch NFL highlight shows, and has recently studied Thompson’s play a lot.
“He is a monster,” Prosise said. “Guys like us, you see us being kind of the future.”
WATSON NEWS HITS HARD
Richard Sherman was shaking his head on and off for about 10 full minutes.
Four days after he praised Deshaun Watson’s 402-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Seahawks, Sherman and his teammates were stunned and saddened upon learning the Houston Texans rookie quarterback tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in practice, and is done for the year.
“It’s just unfortunate. It’s terrible news,” Sherman said, after talking with teammates Michael Bennett and others about Watson’s injury just before the Seahawks started practice.
“I feel terrible for him and his family. He had such a bright future – still has a bright future – but his rookie year is cut short. Probably had one of the best rookie months that anybody’s had for a long time, so I’m sure he will still be in the running for Rookie of the Year. But just not anything you want to hear.”
As expected, safety Earl Thomas (hamstring) did not practice, which has become customary for the veteran who has not participated in a Thursday practice since late September. Coach Pete Carroll said this week the earliest Thomas would practice was Friday. He is likely to be a game-time decision Sunday, and if he cannot go against the Redskins, Bradley McDougald would step into a starting role. ... What was surprising again was the absence of safety Kam Chancellor (ankle) and Wagner (hamstring). Both played full games against Houston, and did not appear hurt. ... Defensive lineman Jarran Reed (concussion) returned to practice.