RICHMOND — One went too fast; the other not as fast as he wanted. When rookies Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, both of whom missed all of the spring workouts, finally practiced with the Redskins on Thursday, they learned quick lessons about adjusting to the NFL.
In the case of Reed, who sat out in the spring because of a thigh contusion, it was because he over-adjusted to the speed of the game. For Thompson, it was about trusting his surgically-repaired left knee that prematurely ended his senior season at Florida State.
“I have to build up more confidence in it and get that twitch in me again,” Thompson said. “I was still missing a little piece, just a little quick twitch that will get me out in the open field. I had one in the open field that should have been a touchdown.
“I haven’t had any pain at all, but it’s about being confident. As soon as I can truly believe in it I should be good to go. Going through practice [Thursday], I realized it’s not hurting at all.”
If healthy, Thompson, a fifth-round pick, would provide the Redskins speed in the backfield, which they could use especially on third downs. He excelled in college at making defenders miss with a combination of speed and quickness, honed by several years of agility drills. If he makes the roster, he could develop initially as an occasional weapon in the Redskins’ triple-option attack similar to how they used Brandon Banks a year ago.
Or Thompson could evolve into a change-of-pace third-down back, though he’d need to prove himself in pass protection first. He’s listed at 5 feet 8, but was measured in the past an inch shorter. It remains to be seen if he can handle picking up blitzing NFL linebackers.
But a key issue for him will be staying healthy. He broke two bones in his back in 2011 and suffered the knee injury last season.
“Freak [injuries],” Thompson said.
As for Reed, he learned that his offseason strength training with the Redskins helped as he noticed an ability to hold his blocks longer. His blocking drew the most criticism before the draft and he knows he still has to improve his technique.
What Reed also discovered is the need to calm down while running routes. He wants to run his routes at about three-quarter speed so when he gets to the top of his break he can make a quick move. That’s not what he’s doing.
“I’m rushing my routes too much because I’m hearing how fast the game is,” said Reed, a third-round pick. “I’m in a route full speed … and I’m too fast for my breakdowns. My balance is off and my footwork isn’t as sharp.”
Like Thompson, Reed could have a helpful role this season as a fourth tight end. He’s an athletic tight end capable of running routes from any spot, particularly out of the backfield. Reed said he felt more comfortable running routes from an upright position rather than a three-point stance.
But before Reed or Thompson can get to a point where they’re contributing, they had to start practicing. That’s what Coach Mike Shanahan focused on Thursday.
“I wasn’t really sure about either of them before we went through our conditioning drills. Both guys were one of the best,” he said. “I am really happy with how hard they both worked because gave themselves an opportunity to come in and compete right away. Both of them have picked up the offense very quickly and hopefully there is no setback but both of them look very good.”
Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag.
The team practices at 10 a.m. and 3:20 p.m.
Owner Daniel Snyder and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones hold a news conference at 2:30.
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