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The 5 O'Clock Club: Poll Rewind - The impact of Chris Thompson’s 2017 season-ending injury

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The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

Welcome to the Poll Rewind series!

As you probably know already, each 5 o’clock club post ends with a poll question. Usually, the results are forgotten within a day or two, but no longer!

Today the comments are from James Dorsett.

We go back to 21 November 2017 when the poll asked what the likely effect of Chris Thompson’s season-ending injury on the Redskins would be?

Here were the results from that poll:

7% - None, really. Next man up. Did the Eagles falter when Darren Sproles went out for the season? Did the Vikings fold when Dalvin Cook was lost?

34% - It’ll slow the offense down some, but the coaches and players will adjust.

29% - This is significant, and will cause the Redskins to struggle in games that they should win easily.

30% - Including its impact on the Redskins offense in the 4th quarter of the Saints game, this injury will cost the Redskins any chance they had of making the playoffs.

Comments from James Dorsett:

The readers were spot on in each of my first two appearances in the poll rewind series (2017 sacks and NFC East passing), and, once again in this poll, the Hogs Haven faithful showed their ability to correctly analyze and understand the situation.

Fifty-nine percent of people responding to the poll chose either option 3 or 4, saying that the loss of Chris Thompson would have a major impact on the Redskins and their chances of success in 2017. Even so, many fans may have underestimated the devastating effect that Thompson’s loss would have on the Washington offense. With a healthy Chris Thompson, the Redskins had a high-octane passing attack and one of the better overall offenses in the league; without him, the team struggled.

25 stats that show how the Skins got worse without #25

The impact of Thompson’s loss was seen at every level of the offense (passing, rushing, overall and high-leverage situations) and that impact was dramatic.

I’ve illustrated this in the following tables by comparing the Redskins’ offensive performance across 25 statistics in Weeks 1-11 (when Thompson was healthy and active) to how they fared in Weeks 12-17 (when Thompson was on injured reserve). I also included the end-of-season 2017 ranking which would have applied if each pace had been maintained over the course of the entire season.

Just look at the differences between these stats and their extrapolated rankings, and I think you’ll agree that the effect Chris Thompson’s injury had on the team was very significant.

Chris Thompson and the Redskin passing attack

Passing Statistics
Stat # Category Weeks 1-11 Weeks 12-17 Difference
1 Yards/Game 256.8 (8th) 197.2 (25th) 59.6
2 Yards/Att 8.10 (1st) 6.65 (21st) 1.37
3 Cmp % 66.7% (4th) 60.0% (23rd) 6.7%
4 TD/INT Ratio 3.40 (4th) 1.25 (25th) 2.15
5 First Down % 39.1% (3rd) 28.7% (31st) 10.4%
6 Passer Rating 101.8 (3rd) 79.8 (17th) 22.0
7 Avg Raw QBR 62.0 33.3 28.7
8 Avg PFF Grade 0.7 -1.8 2.5

Kirk Cousins and the Washington passing game were devastated by the loss of Chris Thompson, as the Skins’ aerial attack produced at a pace that was well below average in the majority of their games without Thompson. For example, the team only topped 225 passing yards once after Week 11. Through the team’s first ten games, they were on pace to rank inside the top-10 in virtually every one of the passing categories seen above through, but put up bottom-10 figures thereafter. That’s an incredible turnaround!

Minnesota Vikings v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Chris Thompson and the Redskin ground game

Rushing Statistics
Stat # Category Weeks 1-11 Weeks 12-17 Difference
9 Yards/Game 102.6 (23rd) 70.3 (32nd) 32.3
10 Yards/Carry 3.87 (24th) 3.10 (32nd) 0.77
11 TD/Game 0.9 (10th) 0.2 (32nd) 0.7
12 First Down % 17.0% (29th) 15.5% (32nd) 1.5%
13 Success Rate 46.0% 40.5% 5.5%
14 20-Yard Gains 3 0 3

The Redskins’ running game wasn’t particularly efficient even when Thompson was healthy, but things got really bad after he was lost for the year. The ‘Skins basically went from bottom-10 to dead last in every statistic that I looked at here.

In the final six games of the year, the offense never averaged better than 3.95 yards per carry, didn’t rush for any gains of 20 or more yards, only topped 100 rushing yards once in a game and scored just once on the ground (Kirk Cousins in Week 17).

Washington Redskins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

Overall offensive output

Overall Offensive Statistics
Stat # Category Weeks 1-11 Weeks 12-17 Difference
15 Yards/Game 359.4 (11th) 267.5 (32nd) 91.9
16 Yards/Drive 32.4 (8th) 21.7 (32nd) 10.7
17 Yards/Play 5.66 (8th) 4.63 (31st) 1.03
18 FD/Game 19.4 (17th) 14.0 (32nd) 5.4
19 OFF TD/Game 2.6 (5th) 1.8 (24th) 0.8
20 Points/Game 23.8 (11th) 17.3 (28th) 6.5
21 Points/Drive 2.15 (7th) 1.41 (26th) 0.74

Obviously if both the passing and rushing-game numbers took a hit, then so too would the overall offensive statistics. The Redskins hypothetical/extrapolated rankings fell by an average of 20 spots from the games that Chris Thompson played in to the ones he missed. It’s hard to believe that he had that great an impact, but his skills as a runner, receiver and blocker are a significant part of the Redskins’ offensive attack.

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Miscellaneous statistics

Clutch Statistics
Stat # Category Weeks 1-11 Weeks 12-17 Difference
22 3rd Down % 36.7% (22nd) 25.0% (32nd) 11.7%
23 4th Down % 63.6% (4th) 40.0% (21st) 23.6%
24 Red Zone % 59.4% (7th) 42.9% (28th) 16.5%
25 GW Drives 3 1 2

The Washington offense was historically horrible on third down without its primary third-down back (19 for 76). The 2017 Redskins were always pretty awful on the money down, but they weren’t always that way in some of the other clutch statistics. The team ranked near the top of the league in fourth-down percentage, red-zone percentage and game-winning drives when Chris Thompson was healthy... but the script was predictably flipped after his injury.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

25 reasons why #25 C.T. is the G.O.A.T

How do we know the loss of Thompson had a significant effect on the decline of the offense’s performance across all of those different categories?

Is he really that good?

In short, yes, yes he is.

Chris Thompson is one of the best receiving running backs in the entire NFL. In honor of his greatness, here are 25 facts about #25 and his amazing (but injury-shortened) 2017 campaign.

Point Man

1. Chris Thompson scored four of the team’s first five offensive touchdowns in 2017.

2. He averaged a touchdown per game between Week 14 of the 2016 season and Week 3 of last year (7-game span).

3. The Redskins scored 23 offensive touchdowns prior to Thompson’s season-ending injury. He was on the field for 11 of those scores.

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Chicks Dig the Long Ball

4. Chris Army Knife’s 61-yard rushing touchdown in Week 2 against the Rams was the team’s longest offensive score of the season and is tied for the longest rushing TD by a Redskins running back in the last 14 years.

5. Thompson was responsible for three of the team’s six longest offensive plays in 2017 (#’s 1, 3 and 6).

6. His 74-yard reception against the Raiders was the longest offensive play of the season for the Redskins.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Career Day

7. C.T. went on to put up 150 receiving yards in the game against Oakland, which is an all-time record for a Redskins running back.

8. That alone would have been enough to give Thompson the highest yards from scrimmage total by a Redskin in 2017, but he added 38 rushing yards, as well. He is just one of a dozen players since the merger to score a touchdown, gain 150 receiving yards and gain 35 rushing yards in a single game. He is joined on that list by Marshall Faulk, Herschel Walker, Brian Westbrook, Todd Gurley, Matt Forte, Marcus Allen and Le’Veon Bell.

Oakland Raiders v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Rewriting the History Books

9. Chris Thompson would go on to have another 100-yard day through the air three weeks later against the San Francisco 49ers. He is the only running back who has posted two 100-yard receiving games in a single season since Darren Sproles accomplished that feat in 2012.

10. No other active running back currently on a roster (tied with Le’Veon Bell, Giovanni Bernard and LeSean McCoy) and no other RB in Redskins’ franchise history (tied with Larry Brown and Dick James) have more career 100-receiving games than Thompson (2).

11. He was on pace to finish the year with 816 receiving yards, which would have been a new franchise record for a Washington Redskins running back.

12. If Thompson would have hit that receiving mark and maintained his yards per rush and receptions averages, he would have become just the third player in NFL history to top 800 receiving and 250 rushing yards, while averaging over 12 yards per reception and 4.5 yards per carry. The other two players are Hall of Famers Lenny Moore and Marshall Faulk.

13. With 122 more rushing and 216 more return yards, Thompson will join Brian Mitchell, Ladell Betts and Dick Todd as the only players in franchise history with 100 receptions and 1,000 yards rushing, receiving and in the return game.

Washington Redskins vs Los Angeles Rams Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Miscellaneous Stats

14. Last season, Thompson only dropped one of his 54 targets and 40 catchable passes, which gave him a top-ten drop rate at the position (2.5%). Unfortunately, his lone drop came on what could have been a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 2.

15. In 2017, he only allowed the quarterback to be hit or sacked on one of his 36 pass-blocking snaps. This also took place against the Rams.

16. Chris Thompson has never committed a single penalty in his five-year NFL career. That includes preseason and postseason play.

17. An interception had never been thrown on a target directed at Thompson until Week 8 of last year (by Byron Jones of the Cowboys). However, one interception isn’t bad at all when you consider that he has caught nine touchdown passes. Quarterbacks have a 107.5 passer rating when targeting Thompson in his NFL career.

Philadelphia Eagles v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Redskins Offensive Player of the Year

18. At the time of his injury, Chris Thompson was leading the Redskins in the following stats: receptions, receiving yards, receiving TDs, missed tackles forced, rushing yards, yards from scrimmage, return yards, all-purpose yards, first downs and total touchdowns.

19. He led the team in some of those categories by very wide margins: 14 first downs, 97 return yards, 313 yards from scrimmage and 476 all-purpose yards.

20. At season’s end, Thompson still led the team in yards per carry (4.59), rushing yards after contact per attempt (2.61), yards per target (9.44) and yards per route run (2.34).

Carolina Panthers v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Chris Thompson: Elite NFL Receiving Back

21. C.T. ranked 5th in PFF receiving grade (6.4) and 4th in receiving touchdowns (4) among all running backs last season. He ranked 3rd among 20-target RBs in receiving yards per game (51.0) and yards per route run (2.34). Only Alvin Kamara, Rex Burkhead and Todd Gurley bested him in either statistic.

22. Chris Thompson led all qualifying backs in yards per reception (13.1), yards per target (9.44) and yards per offensive touch (7.81).

23. Thompson was leading the entire NFL in yards after the catch (YAC) at the time of his injury (485 yards). Alvin Kamara, who ranked second at that point, was 142 yards behind in YAC when C.T. suffered his injury. Only Todd Gurley topped Thompson in YAC per game this season.

24. Chris Thompson’s 67.2% receiving DVOA led the entire NFL last season (among qualifiers).

25. That is the fifth highest receiving DVOA in the last 32 years (1986), which is as far back as DVOA data goes. The only players with higher single-season receiving DVOAs are Tony Fisher (68.3% in 2003), Larry Johnson (69.8% in 2004), Darren Sproles (70.5% in 2008) and Antonio Gates (76.3% in 2010). Of that group, only Gates had more targets, receptions, receiving first downs and receiving yards in his top DVOA season than Thompson did.

The Return of Chris Thompson

We’ll never know what heights Chris Thompson and the 2017 Washington Redskins could have reached had Thompson not suffered a broken leg in a freak injury last season. Perhaps, the team would have made the playoffs, or maybe Thompson would have led all running backs in receiving yards and set a new franchise record with that mark. We can only wonder what might have been and hope that Thompson’s future will be as bright as his past has been.

Washington Redskins v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Thankfully, #25 will be returning to the Redskins, because the front office displayed great foresight last September when they signed Thompson to an extension that will keep him in a Burgundy and Gold uniform until 2020 at least.

C.T. is still only 27-years-old and the recovery from his fractured fibula appears to be going well (see the video below).

If Chris Thompson can stay healthy the way he did between 2014 and the end of last season, then we should expect to see more offensive fireworks from him in the upcoming 2018 season.

*All statistics are courtesy of Air Yards, CSN Mid Atlantic, ESPN, Football Perspective, NFL.com, NFL Gamebooks, Player Profiler, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Redskins.com, Sharp Football Stats, Team Rankings and The Washington Post*

Poll

How many yards from scrimmage will Chris Thompson gain in 2018?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    0-249
    (4 votes)
  • 2%
    250-499
    (6 votes)
  • 18%
    500-749
    (41 votes)
  • 31%
    750-999
    (71 votes)
  • 29%
    1,000-1,249
    (66 votes)
  • 15%
    1,250 or more
    (34 votes)
222 votes total Vote Now
NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports