Washington Redskins: Analyzing RBs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison for 2013

Aidan ReynoldsContributor IIIMay 16, 2013

Chris Thompson has the pace to bring something new to the Washington offense.
Chris Thompson has the pace to bring something new to the Washington offense.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Alfred Morris ran for 1,613 yards last year, but Roy Helu and Evan Royster were less of a factor in the Washington Redskins' success on the ground. To remedy the lack of a true change-of-pace back, Mike Shanahan took Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison in the 2013 draft.

But can they make an impact in any way comparable to Morris' 2012 success?

Just from looking at Thompson and Jamison's college records, the signs aren't too promising. In fact, there's a case to be made that both backs could have been acquired as undrafted free agents.

Thompson has already suffered two torn vertebrae and a torn ACL, leading to justifiable doubts about his durability at the next level. Jamison, meanwhile, is perhaps undersized for a back who carried the ball over 230 times in both his years at Rutgers. He also battled an ankle injury for much of the 2012 season.

However, if there's one coach who knows which running backs will fit his system, it's the one in charge at Redskins Park. Shanahan proved his nous when he brought Morris to Washington and, once again, he was rewarded.

What's interesting about both Thompson and Jamison is that they've succeeded when the offense has functioned in a similar way to the one they'll be a part of in the NFL.

Jamison is more of a between-the-tackles sort of back and Rutgers would regularly utilize him on zone-stretch plays. Although he doesn't have the strength of Morris to gain big yards after contact, he would often use his feet to make defenders miss.

One thing he does share with Morris is vision; he instinctively finds the open space and shows patience when looking for holes. Even though he isn't the biggest of running backs, he doesn't shy away from contact when looking to gain that extra yard.

In his assessment of Jamison's ability to transition to the NFL, Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom projected him to be no more than depth or a special teams contributor, but that would be doing him a slight disservice.

Although it's true that neither his frame nor pace will make him a superstar, he has talent across the board. He has reliable hands and the ability to operate as a good receiving option out of the backfield, as well as being a capable blocker in both the run and passing game.

Writing for CBSSports.com, Rob Rang compared him to Ray Rice, commenting on his elusiveness and ability to run with the strength of a much bigger back.

If Robert Griffin III fails to return for Week 1, Jamison would relieve some of the burden on Morris to be the Redskins' entire running game. Lining up at the same time as Morris, he also adds that extra wrinkle to Kyle Shanahan's ever-evolving offense. If Jamison is successful in OTAs, Royster could find himself struggling to remain relevant.

Looking at Thompson, the most obvious thing about his game is his pace. He's got a great initial burst that enables him to pull away from defenders. This immediately gives the Redskins the third-down option that Helu has provided in the past.

In his analysis for HogsHaven.com, Mark Bullock broke down Thompson's potential contribution to the Redskins as one similar to what Brandon Banks was supposed to provide last year. This makes a lot of sense, since Thompson has good hands and operated well in the screen game at Florida State.

Of course, this all depends on his ability to stay healthy, which remains a big question mark. Helu struggled with Achilles tendonitis and turf toe in 2012, so adding competition in the form of a player with a questionable injury history doesn't seem like a good idea.

Thompson is coming off an ACL tear, so for the Redskins to pick him in the fifth round, the coaches must see him making a contribution.

If Griffin can come off his own knee injury, the threat of him, Thompson and Morris on the ground is a formidable one. If Thompson can show he's healthy, he's sure to see playing time this year.

There's a few ifs in there, admittedly, but the coaches obviously like him and, once again, he adds another option to an offense that did an excellent job of confusing the opposition in 2012.