The Jaguars were always seeking to sign running back Chris Thompson. That much was clear after the team added his former head coach in Washington, Jay Gruden as the team’s offensive coordinator earlier in the offseason.
Due to the on-going quarantine and pandemic, it was tough with a player like Thompson’s injury history to sign with the team right away. Although, he did say the Jaguars called he and his agent at the start of free agency. Thompson was able to finish the season fully healthy, however, playing in 11 games total in 2019.
Having a player as familiar with the team’s direction on the offensive side of the football and adds an element the team has been lacking at times in the run and pass game, is a huge benefit. Thompson allows the Jaguars to be more creative, and the team’s new running back is excited for the challenge, and the reunions that come with it - one, to play in his home state once again, and two, to reunite with his former head coach.
“He is one of the biggest reasons I was able to have the success that I had in Washington and to be able to stick around there,” Thompson explained in a video conference with the local Jacksonville media yesterday. “The first year he got there, I was on the practice squad. I ended up being cut and put on the practice squad, but he talked to me afterwards for a while, after the last preseason game and told me what the situation was.”
Thompson’s career with Washington wasn’t conventional at all. In his first season, the running back tore his left labrum, not contributing in anyway after losing his kick off return job to receiver Josh Morgan. In his second season with the team, Thompson was released during the team’s final cut day, only to be signed onto the practice squad after clearing waivers.
Gruden assured the veteran running back that he’d contribute in Washington at some point, and simply knowing his head coach had his back meant a lot.
Over his seven years with Washington, Thompson played in 66 games, rushing 250 times for 1,194 yards, along with 212 receptions for 1,772 yards, and 10 touchdowns.
Because of his knowledge of the offense Gruden likes to run, Thompson believes he, along with tight end Tyler Eifert, who played with Gruden for a year in Cincinnati, will be able to help the young guys move along and get a better grasp of the offense moving forward.
“I think [Gruden’s] offense is very diverse,” said Thompson. “That was something I was just talking to, letting Gardner know a little bit is about his offense. He wants his playmakers to know what everybody’s doing cause he’s gonna line guys all up in different places.”
Thompson later explained that Gruden prefers to use guys all over the place, a role the Jaguars could see rookie wide receiver Laviska Shenault playing early on throughout his career, able to play in any position along the offense.
“So for for him it’s not just knowing what you gotta do but if you know what the guys around you are doing well it helps give him even more flexibility to do some things and open up that offense and I feel like for him, the more playmakers, he’s gonna spread the ball around, there’s not gonna be one guy that’ll be the full focus of the offense.”
Now in Jacksonville, Thompson will return to where it all started. A former Florida State football star, the eight-year veteran is excited to play in the sunshine state yet again. His family being only an hour and a half away will allow them to come see his games much more often.
“I am a Florida State guy, a Florida boy. I am excited to get back in my home state and just represent it as well as I can and do everything I can to help this Jaguars team.”