Much has been made of the Washington Redskins backfield. It was really good for the first eighth of the season, and has since had just a handful of strong showings while otherwise being rendered completely useless.
Monday night's loss to the Dallas Cowboys was one of the worst outings yet for the rushing attack, as the Redskins continued to run the ball despite a total inability to do so. First downs were the real killer, as a large percentage of drives began with short runs that did little to help Washington on later downs. The final tally was 26 carries for 73 yards, with Alfred Morris not getting a carry after the first quarter and Chris Thompson receiving his only carry with 0:57 left in the fourth quarter.
Thompson was later revealed to have a torn labrum in his shoulder and his status remains uncertain for the remainder of the season. As a result of his injury and Morris and Matt Jones failing to convince the coaching staff they can handle a two-man backfield, Washington signed veteran running back Pierre Thomas on Friday.
Thomas, who is best known for his eight seasons with the New Orleans Saints, is a man of many talents. A skilled runner who can make people miss — though, perhaps less so now as he rapidly approaches his 31st birthday — Thomas can offer a veteran influence on Morris, Jones and Thompson, who have an average age of just 24.7 years.
That influence and guidance is not quantifiable, but worth noting nonetheless. What is quantifiable is what he's done on the field throughout his career.
The 5-11, 210-pound back is one of the more skilled receiving backs in recent NFL history. He is 74th all-time in receptions by a running back* with 327, and his 77-catch season in 2013 is tied for 39th most in a season among RBs. The only Redskins running back to surpass that mark in a season was Larry Centers, who caught 81 passes while wearing the Burgundy and Gold in 2000 (in just 15 games, only six of which he was credited as a starter in).
* This according to Pro-Football-Reference, which also includes any player who lined up in the backfield. As such, a handful of non-running backs, such as Greg Olsen and Fred Davis, are included in the list.
Those numbers are impressive, but perhaps even more so when you consider the situation Thomas worked in while in New Orleans.
Sure, all Saints' pass-catchers had their numbers buoyed some by Drew Brees not only throwing the ball incredibly well, but also incredibly often. But Thomas played in a running back by committee scheme for most of his time in New Orleans, and he was actually only credited with nine starts in his 77-catch season. That year, Thomas wasn't even the most-targeted Saints running back; that was Darren Sproles, who caught 71 of his 89 targets (Thomas was targeted 84 times).
In fact, look at the names on that 2013 Saints offense: Thomas, Sproles, Jimmy Graham (142 targets, 86 catches), Marques Colston (111 targets, 75 catches), Lance Moore (54 targets, 37 catches), Kenny Stills (50 targets, 32 catches), Robert Meachem (30 targets, 16 catches), Ben Watson (30 targets, 19 catches), Mark Ingram (11 targets, 7 catches but also 78 carries), Khiry Robinson (no targets, but 54 carries).
That Thomas managed 77 catches and a team-high 147 carries (for 1,062 total yards) on that team — which, admittedly, is not full of stars but you can't argue with the depth of that team — says a lot about his ability, and his reliability. Brees put a lot of faith in him, and Thomas helped guide them to an 11-5 record.
Exactly 50 players have managed at least 3,700 rushing yards, 2,600 receiving yards and 40 total touchdowns in their careers. Thomas is 50th on that list in total carries, with just 822, and Timmy Brown is the only other player with fewer than 1,000 carries. Thomas' career yards per carry mark of 4.57 is good for 10th. He also comes in at 37th on that list in total receptions, with 327, but his yards per reception (7.98) is good for just 42nd.
The only other active players on that list are Matt Forte, Frank Gore, Reggie Bush, Steven Jackson and Ray Rice. Not bad company to be in.
It's unlikely Thomas will take over lead back duties at any point this season, nor should you expect to see him have any real impact on your fantasy team. But he could be a sneaky good pickup for the Redskins, and he might even manage to hang on with the team after this season.