- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 29, 2017

ASHBURN — Realistically, Byron Marshall knows he can’t be Chris Thompson.

When Thompson went down with a season-ending injury in New Orleans, the Redskins lost their top playmaker and Kirk Cousins’ most trusted target. Still the Redskins needed someone to help fill the role of a third-down specialist.

That cleared the way for Marshall, who was signed off the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad two weeks ago after Rob Kelley (MCL/ankle) went on injured reserve.

At 5-foot-9, Marshall is a former wide receiver turned running back out of Oregon. He has the ability to run and catch.

With his skill-set, Marshall has an opportunity to shine in this Redskins offense, which relies on screens and deception as much as downfield routes. He’ll get another chance Thursday night in Dallas when the Redskins face the Cowboys.

“I’m not trying to fill in for CT or do what he did or anything like that,” Marshall said. “I’m just trying to go out there, have fun and make plays.”

Marshall, who went undrafted in 2016, is trying to get up to speed. Against the Giants, he caught three passes for 10 yards, playing 21 of the Redskins’ 71 offensive snaps. It was a sizable jump from his first game with Washington, when he was on the field for just three plays against the New Orleans Saints.

Not surprisingly, there have been some rough spots for the midseason pickup. On Cousins’ lone interception against Giants, Marshall ran the wrong route — not adjusting to what the routes the receivers down the field were running. The running back instead ran his original route and Cousins threw the ball anyway. Marshall then bobbled the pass off his hands to Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins, who returned it for a touchdown.

“I guess that’s just two f’ups in one play,” Marshall said.

Cousins, though, said he forgot to tell Marshall he needed to adjust on the play.

The quarterback approached Marshall afterward.

“What’s cool about Byron is when I say that, he gets it right away and he said, ‘That makes sense, got it,’ and we had a good conversation about it,” Cousins said. “I think Byron’s a player that excites me. He has some juice to him. He can catch the football and has a good sense of the game. There was some carryover from Philadelphia’s offense to our offense and he just seems to understand football pretty well. I think he’s got a lot of potential going forward.”

The Redskins running back room is lacking experience without Thompson and running back Rob Kelley. Samaje Perine, the starter, is a 22-year-old rookie. Marshall is 23, but played in just three games last season with the Eagles, spending most of the year on the practice squad. LeShun Daniels, who was added to the roster last week, has never taken a regular season snap at running back.

The situation has led running backs coach Randy Jordan and coach Jay Gruden to do more teaching than they normally would this late into the season.

“I think running back, really, has been tough,” Gruden said. “Especially at that position, there’s so much to learn as far as third down protections and all that stuff, but Byron has done a great job of picking it up. Randy has done a great job of teaching them.”

Like Cousins’ referenced, Marshall said the Redskins’ offense is similar to the Eagles as both are west-coast based. For now, Marshall is just trying to pick up the specific terminology and blocking concepts.

Once he does that, he likes his chances at making a difference.

“Me and Samaje are two different runners,” Marshall said. “I think our combinations will kind of compliment each other. From there, I’m hoping to make big plays, a spark or something happen.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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