- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In a season full of costly injuries, Redskins running back Chris Thompson’s broken leg might have been the most damaging.

On a radio appearance with 106.7 The Fan, quarterback Kirk Cousins confirmed as much, though he also took pains to mention others.

“I credit our scouting department for the way they found other running backs to still make us functional, and that was impressive that they did that,” Cousins told Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier. “But I thought losing Chris was tough.”

Thompson, a third-down back who looked like the Redskins’ MVP in the 10 games he played, suffered a season-ending broken fibula Nov. 19 against the New Orleans Saints. Washington’s offense took a nose-dive after.

With Thompson, the Redskins’ averaged 359.4 yards per game. Without, 267.5.

The running game, averaging 102.6 yards per game with Thompson, mustered only 70.3 yards per game without.

There were other factors.

The Redskins faced some notable defenses in the last six games — the Arizona Cardinals and the Denver Broncos — but their worst games came against the Los Angeles Chargers and the New York Giants. And, for the last three games, they were without star left tackle Trent Williams, as well.

But Thompson was the key. He had emerged as the team’s top playmaker, leading the Redskins in both receiving and rushing yards at the time of his injury.

Coach Jay Gruden liked to use Thompson in screen and draw plays. Cousins’ longest play of the season came on a short swing pass in Week 3 against the Oakland Raiders that Thompson turned into an electrifying 74-yard catch-and-run.

Chris is an impact player,” Gruden said. “He had almost 600 yards receiving in 10 games. You know, that’s hard to replace. Not to mention his rushing yards and his ability to pick up blitzes. He’s a matchup nightmare.”

Gruden said losing Thompson — along with tight end Jordan Reed — hurt the Redskins, especially on third down. Reed appeared in only six games in 2017, missing the last two months of the year with a hamstring strain.

The Redskins were horrid on third down this season — converting a second-worst 32.3 percent of plays. They were especially bad in the last game of the season, going just 1-for-13 against the Giants.

For the first 10 games of the season, the Redskins converted 36.7 percent of their chances. In the next six games, they managed to convert only 25 percent of their third downs.

“We weren’t good enough down the stretch on third down obviously and it’s something we have to look at moving forward, but we definitely did miss [Thompson and Reed],” Gruden said.

Thompson’s absence even took a toll on the defense.

Linebacker Martrell Spaight said the back’s performances inspired teammates on the defensive side of the ball. He said that jolt was missing after Thompson went down.

Appearing at Redskins Park on crutches, Thompson said Tuesday the hardest part about missing the last few games was “knowing the impact I had on my teammates and this offense.”

Thompson, who had surgery in December, is under contract for next season, but he knows not all of his teammates will be back in 2018. His timetable for recovery is 4-6 months and he expects to be ready for training camp.

“Having to sit home and see it all unfold, there was a lot of things that I did pretty good this year that I felt I could have helped my team in the second half of the season,” Thompson said. “It sucked just not being there.

“That’s the worst part about it, going through the grind with these guys since April and just having to cut it short,” he added.

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