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Redskins' Jay Gruden: Chris Thompson 'looks fantastic'

Two crucial pieces to the Washington Redskins offense appear set for the regular season.

Coach Jay Gruden spoke glowingly about running back Chris Thompson -- recovering from a broken leg -- and tight end Jordan Reed -- coming off toe surgery on both feet -- being on pace to play Week 1. By the sound of Gruden's comments, the running back appears a little further ahead.

"Chris looks fantastic," Gruden said, via "He's been great -- his pass blocking and obviously his routes, and he's hitting the hole. He looks great. He's ready to go. Jordan is getting there. The more he works and more he runs ... he had a great day today, just getting in and out of his cuts, getting a feel with [quarterback Alex Smith] and the different formations. He's on pace to be ready."

Both playmakers being ready for the start of the season against the Arizona Cardinals would be a big boon for Smith.

Gruden's comments on Thompson are particularly interesting. The third-down back admitted this offseason he didn't expect to be fully healthy until November (read: might not be 100 percent all season). The coach's glowing praise of his process, however, could raise expectations.

Despite Adrian Peterson looking in line to be an early-down runner, the Redskins backfield remains ripe for Thompson to play a huge role when healthy. With injuries to rookie Derrius Guice (ACL) and backups Samaje Perine (ankle) and Byron Marshall (knee), nothing is settled in Washington's tailback room.

Peterson will start the season as the between-the-tackles runner after being force-fed during last week's preseason tilt. Handing off to Peterson nearly every snap he played is fine and dandy during the preseason, how it will work when real games start is a different issue. Questions remain about All Day's ability to play on passing downs. If Peterson again becomes a telegraph to playcalling, Gruden might need to utilize Thompson more than planned early in the season.

Regardless of Peterson's workload, Thompson will certainly play a huge rule as a pass-catcher and matchup nightmare out of the backfield. The 27-year-old became Kirk Cousins' favorite target. Expect the same for Smith, who isn't afraid to check down often.

As for Reed, the Redskins have kept the tight end in bubble wrap this offseason, hoping he can stay as healthy as long as possible. Never playing in more than 14 games in any of his five seasons, the dynamic tight end could be a huge asset to Smith if healthy. That if remains a foggy haze of uncertainty, however.

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