- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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RICHMOND, Va. -- The one trait Washington Redskins Chris Thompson couldn't show last summer is the one trait that made him dangerous. He'd watch a run in practice on film and know he could have hit it faster. Or burst through quicker. Or finish better.
Occasionally he'll say the same thing now, but there's a difference. When it happens now, it's not because he's wondering if he's as fast or as quick as he used to be.
“I'm not questioning my explosiveness and speed anymore,” Thompson said. “I feel good, actually.”
It's been evident in practice that Thompson feels better. He's shown more flash than he did last summer when he earned a roster spot as a rookie. Judging a running back early in camp is dangerous because, with no live tackling, it's impossible to measure how many defenders he makes miss. So a back will squirt through the middle, break free and hear the crowd cheer. The reality: It's tough to know if he'd have been tackled after 2 yards or 20.
But for Thompson it's a good sign that he looks faster. The coaches like the second-year back -- and even though Jay Gruden did not draft him, he was high on Thompson before the 2013 draft while with Cincinnati.
The numbers game doesn't matter yet, however. What matters for Thompson is that his speed has returned.
“I'm over a year from the ACL and it usually takes a year once you start feeling good,” he said, “and I'm starting to feel that speed now and it feels good.”
Coaches have noticed.
“He's got the speed, he's got the hands,” Gruden said. “He's got the quickness. He's got everything you're looking for. We've just got to make sure he stays healthy.”
Yes, staying healthy is the big key for Thompson. He's listed at 5-foot-8, 193 pounds so durability concerns always will surround him. Add in the torn ACL preceded by two broken vertebrae in his back the previous season. Last year, Thompson ended up on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
“I've just got to stay healthy,” Thompson said.
If he does, Thompson could be a nice fit in the Redskins' offense as a part-time back in the spread formation with his shiftiness through the hole. But he also has to prove he can help in pass protection, an area even he admits he needs more consistency. He did not have his best day in this area during Sunday's practice.
But his game starts with his quickness and speed.
“It's good that I can still show the coaches that I have that step,” Thompson said.
The next step is proving it in the preseason games.