Eagles wary of Chris Thompson, whether he brings family or not

Raiders Redskins Football
Redskins running back Chris Thompson (left) runs the ball during the second half of the Redskins game against the Raiders on Sept. 24.

Chris Thompson is more than just the guy who roiled social media and provided talk show fodder this week by discussing how he’d discouraged family members from attending Monday night’s encounter between his Washington Redskins and the host Eagles.

Thompson also has been a huge part of the Washington offense lately, as a running back who leads his team in rushing (38 carries, 175 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, two touchdowns) and in receiving (18 catches, 340 yards, 18.9 yards per catch, and two more TDs), though he seldom plays when it isn’t third down or at least second and long.

The way the Redskins use Thompson (5-foot-8, 191 pounds) in their offense, he’s kind of a maroon-clad Darren Sproles. Washington coach Jay Gruden doesn’t like to go to Thompson too often, particularly in the run game, but he can have an outsized impact.

“Every coach he’s played under, he’s one of those guys that if you need a play, put him in — he’s going to be super-reliable. He’s going to block, he’s going to catch the ball, he’s going to run the ball,” said Eagles corner Patrick Robinson, who played with Thompson at Florida State. “He’s one of those guys that you keep on your team, because he’s going to do exactly what you tell him to do. … He’s very reliable. He was the same way at Florida State.”

Rib and ankle injuries to Rob Kelley, Washington’s top running back, have given Thompson a bit more exposure, in his fifth season since arriving as a fifth-round pick. Kelley is expected to play Monday night.

“Honestly, he’s always been a great player. I just feel like they’re finally utilizing him a lot more in their offense,” said Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham, also a Thompson teammate at Florida State. “He’s a good natural running back; we used to always compare him to [former Florida State star] Warrick Dunn. We used to always call him ‘Baby Dunn.’ ”

Thompson has been really good this season at taking a screen or a short dump-off and breaking it for a major gain; in a Week 3 victory over the Raiders, he took a bubble screen 74 yards.

In the Redskins’ season-opening loss to the Eagles, Thompson took a Kirk Cousins pass 29 yards for a TD. Cousins, under pressure, found Thompson at the Birds’ 20 and Thompson slithered out of tackles all the way to the end zone.

“I think it was an angle route. Couple of us guys missed a tackle. I tried to take a big hit on him; he bounced off and made a spectacular play,” Eagles safety Rodney McLeod said Friday. “Second down and long, third downs, he’s becoming a hot target. Just using what his strengths are, and that’s playing in space, the ability to make plays in space. We’re going to have to keep our eyes on him at all times.”

Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz mentioned Thompson this week when Schwartz was asked about how important it is to tackle well when playing off coverage, as the Eagles have been doing with their inexperienced corners.

“He’s playing at a ridiculous level, and a lot of that is coming from run after the catch. He did it to us in the opener,” Schwartz said.  “So many times tackling has to do with team defense. It has to do with leverage. I think a lot of people, you look at tackling as an individual event or an individual skill, but a defender’s ability to get a guy on the ground has a lot to do with the other people around him and the leverage that they take and his ability to aggressively play through his leverage, that helps him be able to be more efficient in tackling.”

Robinson and Bradham hadn’t heard about Thompson’s interview with Washington’s 980 ESPN radio this week, in which Thompson referred to the Eagles’ crowd as “some of the meanest fans I’ve ever experienced.”

Thompson said he had family members visiting him this weekend, but would not allow them to attend the game.

“I heard that’s the one stadium you keep your family from going to,” he told host Bram Weinstein. “My family will be here this week, and they were like, ‘I want to come to the Philly game.’ I said, ‘Absolutely not, you’re going to have to wait until Dallas comes around.’ Because my stepdad, he’s a big guy. And if he starts fighting, it’ll be real bad out there. I was told that right away my rookie year: Keep your family away.”

Bradham and Robinson, both of whom have played at the Linc as visitors, didn’t offer any reassurances to the Thompson clan.

“I would say so,” Robinson said, when asked if Thompson’s caution was well-advised. “When it comes to family, then it’s personal. This football stuff goes out the window.”

“Hey,” Bradham said, grinning. “It’s a jungle in the Linc. I guess he knows – he knows what it’s going to be like. Prime time. He’s been here before. I guess he’s telling them a good thing.”