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Redskins RB Chris Thompson on pace for historic season

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ASHBURN, Virginia -- Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson continues to make big plays. Eventually he might make history, too.

Through five games Thompson is on pace to do something only three other running backs have done in NFL history: Carry the ball 100 times and surpass 1,000 yards receiving.

San Diego’s Lionel James (1985), San Francisco’s Roger Craig (1985) and St. Louis’ Marshall Faulk (1999) accomplished the feat, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

In 1966, former Redskins running back Charley Taylor carried the ball 87 times and finished with 1,119 yards receiving as he started the transition to wideout. He never carried the ball more than three times in a season the rest of his career. Thompson, like the others, is a true running back.

This season, Thompson has caught 18 passes for 340 yards and carried the ball 36 times for another 175 yards. He has scored two touchdowns rushing and two more receiving.

Thompson has been Washington’s main offensive weapon this season, replacing DeSean Jackson as their big-play target -- but in a different way. The bulk of Thompson’s success has been turning screen passes into long gains. That’s what he did Sunday in a win over San Francisco, catching four passes for 105 yards.

Thompson averages an NFL-best 18.28 yards after the catch. He has gained an NFL-high 329 yards after the catch -- 77 more than anyone else. The other players in the top 10 have played six games; Thompson has played five.

But the question will be whether he can match what only three other players have done. Thompson has never carried more than 68 times in a season and he’s only 10 yards from setting a career-high in receiving yards.

However, he’s never been this central a part of Washington’s offense and he’ll continue to receive opportunities. He averaged 7.3 touches per game from scrimmage last season. Sunday, he finished with a career-high 20 touches, including 16 carries. Before Sunday, he was averaging 8.5 touches per game.

To reach the magic mark, Thompson will have to average 5.8 carries per game and 60 receiving yards. Thompson carried the ball a combined six times in the first two games and 14 in the following two. So that’s doable.

The Redskins have been reluctant to give him too many carries in the past because they feared the 5-foot-8, 191-pound Thompson wouldn’t be durable. Those fears have started to vanish.

But because of his size, they don’t want to overuse him as a primary back, keeping him in more of a third-down role. Sunday, he carried the ball so often because starter Rob Kelley was out and they opted for different run packages. He gained 33 yards.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden said in an ideal situation Thompson would get seven or eight carries per game, aiming for 10-15 touches per game. If he continues to get that many, the production will follow. And his name would be placed on an exclusive list.