Chris Thompson is a super star in the making

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Chris Thompson might be the most underappreciated player in football. The Washington Redskins running back core has overall been disappointing this year. Rob Kelley hasn’t lived up to expectations, and while Samaje Perine is ok, the Redskins will need better from him to make a legitimate playoff push. Thompson’s name gets lost among the others, but unlike his counterparts, he might be the most important player on the Redskins offense.

Thompson is a quintessential third down back. He has great acceleration and the agility to help him beat defenders with ease. He is a good route runner out of the backfield and has the vision necessary to find holes in the defense. The Redskins know this as well, using him on every single third down during their Sunday night matchup against the Oakland Raiders, save the final third down of the game when it was all but over.

His vision and anticipation make him an excellent target out of the backfield, as he displayed Sunday night.

The running back runs an out route out of the backfield. His route is delayed and he initially fakes as if he was going to block on the play. Thompson chooses the perfect moment to deke out of the backfield, just as the rusher he was pretending to block gets to him. He slips by into the open flat where Kirk Cousins finds him for a quick dump off pass. Washington pulls both of their guards into the flat to lead for their back. Terrelle Pryor throws a good block upfield as well. Thompson does an excellent job navigating through the blocks. He changes his speed and stays light on his feet in order to get find an opening and get far upfield for a huge gain and a first down.

Thompson caught six passes on seven targets for 150 yards and touchdown. He was the Redskins most important weapon and was huge in their dominating victory.

He creates a match up nightmare, especially against zone coverage. It is harder to account for a man coming out of the backfield compared to a wide out, and linebackers sometimes lose him until it is too late.

He runs a late curl route over the middle of the field, as he again stalled as if he was going to block at the beginning of the play. Oakland is playing cover 4, and all of their linebackers disperse in zone coverage. They entirely lose track of the man in the backfield and they pay for it. Thompson quickly heads upfield and runs a perfectly timed curl. He catches a wide open pass then turns upfield for a decent gain.

Versatility is key in today’s NFL. Thompson has the ability to split out wide like a receiver and can make plays and create mismatches out there as well.

The running back is split out wide this play and Cousins gets him the ball instantly. Washington sends out their offensive line to block, but they are far away from the sideline where the ball was caught. The Redskins trusted Thompson to make move and stay on his feet before the cavalry arrived and he proved himself worthy. He finds a crease in the wave of Raiders defenders attacking him, and am impressive jump cut allows him to slip through the cracks and turn upfield. He gets a few blocks and torches the defense for a 74 yard gain.

His skill set makes him a huge threat in the run game just as it does in the air attack. Thompson added 38 yards on eight carries Sunday night, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.

His most impressive run of the night came in the latter stages of the first half.

The same vision, agility and anticipation that make him such a great route runner help him find space to make plays in the backfield as well. Thompson takes a delayed handoff out of the backfield. Washington pulled their center across the line to cover the A gap and create room for him. He finds space on the left side. Initially, he starts making way towards the sideline, but when he see’s the cornerback angling himself there he makes a quick cut upfield. He maintains his balance while making a precision turn around his blocker and then breaking towards the sideline again to avoid the rest of the defenders coming from the center of the field.

His vision and burst even allow him to make something out of a broken play.

The Redskins pull their left guard across the formation, as their right guard heads into the second level to seal the gap for the running back. Both guards get lost on the play, though. A Raiders linebacker now has a free run at Thompson. The running back manages to slip by him and between a small crease in the Raiders defense. It was a minimal gain, but with the atrocious blocking up front, the Redskins are lucky he didn’t get tackled in the backfield.

Chris Thompson will never be the starting running back for the Redskins and he will never be every down back. He is a niche player who has perfectly carved out an important role in this offense. He is a hard player to defend, though, and will be key to any sort of success they have this season.

He expects to see regular play this year and his role should be even larger than last year. The Florida State product did not play much in his first two NFL seasons, but over the past two years has become a major part of the Redskins offense. His career high rushing total (356 yards) and receiving total (231 yards) will probably both be shattered this season, and if Thompson continues his path he may become a superstar in the NFL.

 

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David Johnson beat the Redskins last year in a similar way

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Jared Goff is a brand new player in 2017

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

Last winter I chose to do a film breakdown on a lot of the crucial players on a few bad teams. I chose many rookies, including Jordan Howard on the Bears and DeForest Buckner of the 49ers to highlight how good they were and how much they could bring to their team down the line. I decided to go a different direction with the Los Angeles Rams, though.

I chose Jared Goff.

Goff was arguably the worst quarterback in the league in 2016. He had an awful team around him but his decision making and mechanics were bad. I did not want to give up on him yet, but it seemed like it would be years before he at least became an average quarterback.

He has proved me wrong so far. Goff has completed 70% of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns through three games. His lone interception of the year came late in desperation against the Washington Redskins week two.

The Rams joined the San Francisco 49ers to put on a show on Thursday night football last week. They combined for 80 points in a game that went down to the wire. Goff put on a show for the national audience throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns in what was his best game of his short career so far.

His best throw of the game was unfortunately dropped in the first quarter.

The Rams run a corner/vert combo on each side of the field with their running back running a shallow curl over the middle. The 49ers are in cover 2 man. Both of the 49ers linebackers drop in shallow coverage with the safeties behind them in zones of their own. Goff wants tight end Tyler Higbee running a vertical route into the end zone but the linebackers are blocking his throwing lane. He looks towards the shallow running back, which pulls one of the linebackers out of the way. He then throws a perfect bullet pass that should have been a touchdown had Higbee not dropped it.

The end result was not ideal but this is exactly what the Rams coaches want from their quarterback. His decision making and accuracy were questionable last year, but this play demonstrates a huge step forward for him. Last season he would have tried his best to sneak the ball over the linebacker. He clearly has increased his football IQ and has a better understanding. The pass itself was perfect, and one you would expect from the elite class of quarterbacks.

His deep ball was great all night for the second year quarterback. The Rams gave him the green light to let the ball fly downfield and his decision making and accuracy punished the 49ers defense.

The Rams run play action on this play against the 49ers blitz. Goff drops back to pass and his eyes instantly scan deep down the field. He sees Watkins has room ahead of his man. He delivers a great pass as he takes a hit from a defender and Watkins makes the catch for a huge gain.

Not only did Goff had the peace of mind to get that pass off despite the blitz, he placed it perfectly. The 49ers safety was coming over to help and should have gotten there in time to break up the play. He placed the ball towards the sideline instead of Watkins inside shoulder. Only the receiver could make a play on the ball and it gave him the ability to use his body as a shield to make sure he came down with it.

Goff would hook up with Watkins again late on a crucial touchdown, but it was a much shorter throw.

Goff again uses his eyes to clear room for his receiver here. Watkins and another receiver both run shallow curls, and there is a linebacker between them. The defender is in range to potentially break up a pass to either of them. Goff manages to look him off, causing him to clear the area. He darts the ball to Watkins who quickly turns upfield for a touchdown.

The second-year quarterback was not perfect, though. He sometimes would panic under pressure and get stuck on certain receivers. He had a tendency to always drop way back out of the pocket at the slightest signs of pressure and seemed scared to escape out of the pocket to the left. He also rarely steps up and into the pocket allowing the rush to close behind him.

On this play, he entirely misses an open man as he was too focused on his running back in the flat.

Goff drops back and has a clean pocket for the most part. The 49ers rush begins to come around the edge and the clock in his brain seems to go off. He stares down Todd Gurley the entire way and completes a pass to him that ends up losing a yard. Another receiver was wide open over the middle of the field, but Goff just never saw him. It did not cost the Rams much but being able to scan the entire field and not just panicking when the pressure still has not reached you are things that the young quarterback will have to work on over the next year.

It is clear that the improvements that Los Angeles made to the offensive line have done wonders for Goff. He is not spending the majority of his time just trying to escape the pocket with his life like he was last season, and has time to scan the field and deliver a good pass. When that protection does break down, though, he seems to struggle and make a few of the panicky mistakes you expect from a young quarterback.

Goff looks like an entirely different player this year, and the Rams look like a decent team that can steal a few games. With Seattle and Arizona struggling, a hot year from Goff could have the Rams competing for the NFC West title come winter.

 

 

I receive so many breakdown requests and I only wish I had the time to fulfill all of them. The best way to get your request done, and to support all of the content on Bird Breakdowns is to support the site on Patreon!

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More from Bird Breakdowns:

2016 Jared Goff

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Kansas City used Kareem Hunt perfectly in his NFL debut

Game Film, Gif Breakdowns, NFL

Mansur Shaheen

The Kansas City Chiefs third round pick Kareem Hunt had an NFL debut to remember Thursday night against the New England Patriots. The rookie carried the ball 17 times for 148 yards and a touchdown. He also caught 5 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

Hunt was a popular prospect coming out of Toledo among many NFL draft analysts. He has the size to be a powerful NFL runner but has the deceptive agility needed to dodge tackles and find running lanes. The former Rocket was great at bouncing his runs to the outside and is a great open field runner.

Another notable part of his college resume was the fact that he only fumbled the ball once throughout his NCAA career. A total he matched one carry into his NFL career.

Hunt made a good push and would have gained around 8 yards on the play had he held on to the ball. Unfortunately, the ball was punched out of his hand and he lost a fumble on his first career NFL carry.

Andy Reid did not lose faith in his rookie running back, luckily. Hunt would share snaps in the backfield with Charcandrick West and Tyreek Hill throughout the game.

The Chiefs used their running backs open field ability and agility to break runs off of the outside. Kansas City used quick pitches to him and pulled blockers around to seal the edge. His rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter was a good example of this.

Kansas City lined up their receivers as tight ends very close to the offensive line on many of their offensive snaps. On this play, there are two men flanking the line on each side. Albert Wilson (No. 12) and Demarcus Robinson (No. 14) are lined up to the right and responsible with sealing the edge for Hunt. They both take out the first two men on the Patriots right side and leave it up to Hunt to beat the linebackers to the corner. He catches a pitch from Alex Smith while on the run and beats them to the pylon for a touchdown.

Hunt is not the best runner between the tackles so the Chiefs need to spring him into open space to take full advantage of his skills. Majority of the carries that he had on Thursday night were out of shot gun and around the edge.

Under Center

Left Center Right
0 4 3
Shotgun/Pistol
Left Center Right
2 2 6
Total
2 6 9
12% 35% 53%

 

Taking the majority of his rushes out of shot gun and on pitches allows the blockers in front of Hunt to have more time to set up themselves and create room for him. His burst is great, so when he does see the opportunity to turn the corner he can get there fast.

His late fourth quarter rush that sealed the game for the Chiefs was the perfect example of this.

Demetrius Harris (No. 84) and Travis Ross (No. 88) are the pair of tight ends lined up on the left edge. Travis Kelce (No. 87) and left tackle Eric Fisher (No. 72) both pull out wide. Fisher takes the first man while Kelce runs free to take down the first man at the next level. All Hunt has to do is beat the final linebacker to the corner as he comes across the formation. He does and breaks free for a huge gain.

One fault in Hunt’s game that this play does demonstrate is the lack of breakaway speed he has. This should have been a touchdown, and had this been either Tyreek Hill or De’Anthony Thomas this would have been. Luckily West scored on literally the next play, but this should have been a score.

Pulling guards and using additional blockers to create space for Hunt is not the only way to get him into space. The Chiefs ran him into the flat many times to let him catch the ball in space and use his agility to get down field.

The Patriots are playing in zone coverage on this play and the Chiefs ran both of their receivers on that side out of the area on deep routes. Hunt runs a quick route out into the flat, where there is no defender for miles.

He makes the catch and turns up field. Hunt gets a great block down the field by a wide receiver and makes nice cut forward for a good gain and a first down. The play was designed to get the running back into space easily and for him to use his open field skills to make a play.

The highlight of Kareem Hunt’s day came on a passing play, as well.

Hunt runs a wheel route out of the backfield. He gets picked up by a linebacker coming out in man coverage. The rookie manages to fight through initial contact from the defender and gets a step on him heading down field. New Englands deep safety came all the way up the field to cover Tyreek Hill in the flat leaving no one to help over the top. Smith delivers a perfect pass to his running back downfield. Hunt makes the catch, but his poor speed almost allows the defenders to take him down. Luckily with the safety all the way upfield there was no one deep enough to stop him as he went in for the touchdown.

Kansas City catered to Hunt’s strength’s in the passing game just as well as they did in the running game. 7 out of the 13 routes that he ran Thursday night were either out routes straight into the flat or wheel routes. When he makes catches out there is rarely anyone immediately on him and he is almost guaranteed space to operate.

This performance by Hunt, as much as I hate to say it, may be just as much a result of the Chiefs system as it was the running back himself. He struggles between the tackles, his vision is not the best, and he does not have the same kind of speed that Tyreek Hill has. So the Chiefs made sure he never had to. Almost every play he ran was a toss play, he ran very simple routes and outside of that one deep pass Smith would only throw him the ball when he had an open field in front of him.

Kansas City has a very talented back field even with the injury to Spencer Ware. Hunt and West are the only two “true” backs who get regular playing time and both fill the same role. Hill and Thomas, who are both wide receivers, also line up in the backfield often as well on many snaps.

The Chiefs run the most unique offense in football. They rely heavily on speed and pure athleticism of their players and puts them in position to make plays. The offense lined up in the t-formation many times, ran the option, threw many shovel passes right up the gut to Kelce and even let Kelce line up as a wild cat. Andy Reid knows what talent he has on the roster, and how to use every player to reach their max potential.

Expect Hunt to get more playing times over the next few weeks, but also plan on teams being better prepared for the Chiefs newest star. Just like they did last year with Hill, the Chiefs may have found a new exciting prospect in Hunt who should thrive in their system and put together a potential rookie of the year season.

 

I receive so many breakdown requests and I only wish I had the time to fulfill all of them. The best way to get your request done, and to support all of the content on Bird Breakdowns is to support the site on Patreon!

All donations are appreaciated and will go such a long way to help this site continue running.

For more NFL news and breakdowns follow me on twitter!

More from Bird Breakdowns:

Jordan Howard is a franchise back

How the Chiefs ruined Ryan Fitzpatrick’s day

 

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