Of the many storylines from the Patriots’ victory over the Denver Broncos, one that really stood out to me was the re-emergence of rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins.
Thompkins, as you probably know, garnered a lot of hype for the Patriots in the preseason. Undrafted out of Cincinnati, Thompkins grabbed the starting spot as the team’s X-receiver on the outside over a second round pick in Aaron Dobson and a fourth round pick in Josh Boyce.
Unfortunately, Thompkins would struggle to begin the season. His release off the line was excellent, as advertised, but he struggled with drops and didn’t seem to be on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady. Thompkins did have his moments, such as his game winning touchdown against the Saints. However, after a poor game against the Jets in week seven, Thompkins dropped to 14 snaps in week eight, before being a healthy scratch in week nine.
In week eleven against the Panthers, Thompkins got himself back on the radar and created some positive momentum by securing two catches for sixty yards in limited snaps.
Then, against the Broncos last night, Thompkins used that momentum to propel himself back into a major role with the offense. Thompkins supplanted Dobson in the second half of last night’s game completely, taking over as the primary x-receiver and becoming a frequent target off of the play action from quarterback Tom Brady.
Thompkins finished last night’s game with six receptions for 56 yards on nine targets while playing 51% of the team’s snaps. His release was explosive, he routes crisp, and his hands looked good. Most importantly, he appeared to be on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady.
It’s not clear if Thompkins’ extended playing time over Aaron Dobson was a reflection of the game plan, the match-up, or Dobson’s rise on the depth chart. No matter the case, it was great to see Thompkins show resiliency, fight through his mid-season struggles and benching while showing tangible signs of improvement. He will be a player to watch down the stretch as the Patriots offense hits its groove.