Former rivals Jamison, Thompson team up in backfield

Chris Thompson

Chris Thompson, center, taking a handoff today at training camp, remembers facing off against Jawan Jamison in high school. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Rookie running backs Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison are used to competing against one another.

A few years ago, both were northern Florida high school standouts: Thompson was juking through defenses for perennial league champion Madison County, while Jamison was overpowering opponents at powerhouse Bolles. Their teams, both ranked among Florida’s best each year, collided almost annually in the state playoffs.

“He beat me in the playoffs every year that we played him,” Thompson said.

Now, the two are competitors again, this time for a roster spot in a crowded Washington backfield. Thompson would probably prefer a different ending this time around. He and Jamison have set aside rivalry to coexist, and help each other survive in their first professional training camp.

“It’s pretty cool. We’re trying to stick together,” Jamison said of working and learning with Thompson. “We can’t be like ‘oh, I’m trying to be better than you,’ we’ve gotta stick together.”

In doing so, the first-year duo is following the lead of their more veteran competition: still young, but more established running backs like Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster, with whom they’re fighting to be second-year starter Alfred Morris’s backup.

“We’re competing every day for a job and those guys helping me out like they are — it just means a lot to me because they’re just trying to get me up to speed and leave it in the coaches’ hands,” Thompson said. “… Those guys have been teaching (us): they haven’t been selfish at all about it.”

Morris, too, contributes to the cooperative-over-competitive atmosphere in the running back corps.

“Alfred even quizzes me sometimes,” Thompson said. “He’ll call out a play sometimes at practice just to keep me on my toes and make sure I’m focused up every single day.”

With so many names in the mix for the backup running back spot, practice snaps are scarce for Jamison and Thompson. Both say they feel pressure to make each opportunity count.

Jawan Jamison

Jawan Jamison. (John McDonnell/Washington Post)

“Whatever reps you get, you’ve got to take advantage of. You don’t want to mess up,” Jamison said. “That’s the hard part: trying to stay focused enough to try to do everything perfect.”

Jamison and Thompson spend much of the first-team and second-team snaps lined up as scout team defenders, and have to find a way to make those seemingly meaningless reps count, too.

“I don’t get a lot of snaps durings the walk throughs and everything, but when I do get an opportunity (running backs coach Bobby Turner) doesn’t want us to mess up,” Thompson said. “So even when I’m over on the other side just doing the scout team stuff for the offense, I’m also still going through the play in my mind what I’d be doing on the other side.”

In Tuesday morning’s walk through, it was Thompson — who’s missed time as the team takes a cautious approach to his return from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered last year at Florida State — who got the majority of reps after Morris and Helu.

With camp days dwindling and roster cut down nearing, Helu and Royster seem the favorites to back up Morris, though Thompson — if healthy — can bring a shifty elusiveness that would play well in the Redskins’ offensive scheme. The 203-pound Jamison, more of a straight-ahead runner than the shorter, lighter Thompson, played in a zone-blocking scheme similar to Washington’s at Rutgers. But he may need a particularly stellar few weeks of practice to snag a roster spot.

In any case, the chances of Jamison and Thompson both finding their way into the Redskins’ regular-season backfield seem slim. But high school grudges aside, both would likely be more than happy to see that happen.

“We’re kind of going through all the same things mentally and physically,” Thompson said. “It’s great having another rookie back there.”

 

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What’s ahead:

● Tuesday’s second practice is at 3:20 p.m. If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over.

● Pierre Garcon’s uniform donation, and a Devery Henderson update.

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