Redskins to sign rookie Nick Williams off practice squad

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The Washington Redskins will sign wide receiver/return specialist Nick Williams off their practice squad after placing running back Chris Thompson on injured reserve, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Williams, an undrafted rookie out of UConn, is expected to help the Redskins boost their sagging punt and kickoff return units, which ranked 29th and 31st, respectively, entering the Monday night game.

The 5-foot-10, 184-pound Williams had only one punt return during the preseason, returning it 29 yards in a victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Aug. 29. The Redskins valued Williams highly coming out of college, and his limited opportunities in the preseason were because of the team’s desire to get him on its practice squad at the start of the regular season.

Thompson, a 5-foot-8, 187-pound running back taken in the fifth round by the Redskins, tore the labrum in his left shoulder during the preseason and has elected to have surgery. He began the regular season as the primary kickoff and punt returner, but was inactive the last five games as he dealt with the effects of the injury.

After Thompson, the Redskins turned to wide receiver Joshua Morgan for kickoff and punt returns, but Morgan has also struggled to gain yards. While Morgan remained the punt returner in the Redskins’ 34-27 road loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday, he was replaced on kickoff returns by tight end Niles Paul, who held that role at the end of last season and had 74 yards on three attempts.

“We’ll experiment with returners throughout the year until we get the guy that we want,” Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said on Friday, when asked about the state of the team’s punt return game. “One of the things that you have to do as a returner is make good decisions. You’ve got to know when to fair catch it, when to take your opportunities to turn it up the field.”

Williams left UConn with a school record 2,045 kickoff return yards and tied for the record with four punt return touchdowns. He caught a team-high seven passes for 51 yards during the preseason while lining up as a slot receiver.

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