FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — How did wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins go from an undrafted free-agent and a dark horse for the roster, to now being close to a lock for a roster spot and a big role in the offense?
Not by stopping to smell the roses.
"I try not to have that 'wow' moment," Thompkins said, "because if I have a 'wow' moment, that means that I’ll be focusing on the outside, on the crowd and the fans and everything like that. Just living in the moment and trying to get better each day. That’s pretty much all I can do."
That's pretty much all he's done since training camp opened. One day after another, Thompkins does something that makes reporters stop and take notice. Whether it's showing his soft hands, smooth route-running or exceptional quickness, all his skills have been on display.
He has made some of the top plays in camp, including a one-handed reception in the back corner of the end zone and a slick triple-move he pulled in a one-on-one against a Buccaneers defensive back during joint practices.
While he's not the biggest receiver on the roster at 6'0" and 195, he would have been as big as the biggest receiver on any of the Patriots' recent rosters (Chad Johnson aka Ochocinco and Brandon Lloyd were b oth about that size). He's already shown the ability to use that size to his advantage to win one-on-one matchups in camp.
The Patriots coaching staff has rewarded Thompkins with more opportunities to catch passes from starting quarterback Tom Brady, both in practices and on game days.
It's not an opportunity that crossed his mind when he signed with the Patriots.
"I just came here just make sure I was playing football," Thompkins said. "Just trying to be on top of the things that I needed to be on top of. I’m just living in the moment right now."
Thompkins had multiple run-ins with the law before college, and although he saw some success at Cincinnati with 78 catches for 1,077 yards and four touchdowns in his two-year career, his off-field concerns were enough to scare teams away from him in the draft.
His practices have been solid, and he had an impressive debut against the Eagles with four catches for 23 yards, but Friday was not smooth sailing for the rookie, with just one catch for three yards and a drop on a catchable pass from Ryan Mallett in the second quarter.
Consistency is key with the Patriots, specifically at the receiver positions where Tom Brady has a high level of accountability for his pass-catchers.
With a receiving corps that is spear-headed by Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson, there's plenty of room for debate as to who will end up the No. 3 receiver on the depth chart. Julian Edelman has the edge in experience, and Josh Boyce has the status as the team's fourth-round draft pick, but on the talent Thompkins has shown in practices, he deserves as much consideration for that spot as anyone else, if not more.
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