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The Patriots offense is still trying to find its identity and Kenbrell Thompkins needs to be a part of it. Because he is the type of selfless player that the team cultivates, Thompkins himself would never say this but his play on the field does.
Thompkins, an undrafted rookie out of the University of Cincinnati, wasn’t on the radar until the team’s offseason camp started and he emerged as a target that Tom Brady seemed comfortable with among the new crop of rookie wide receivers. Thompkins status as the trusted wide out was only cemented during the preseason as he caught 15 passes for 166 yards to lead all Patriots receivers in both categories.
His performance even garnered praise from Brady who said, “Since [Thompkins] got here he’s been so willing and eager to do whatever it takes.” He then added, “He’s done a great job.”
Entering the season, the wide receiver corps was thin as Danny Amendola and second round pick Aaron Dobson were battling through injuries, and Rob Gronkowski was still recovering from offseason surgery. It appeared that Thompkins was set to take the starting job as the X receiver.
Over the next six weeks he caught 23 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns, one of which was a last-second, game-winning touchdown against the New Orleans Saints in week six.
With the return of Rob Gronkowski and other receivers getting healthy Thompkins’ role began to diminish over the next three weeks. Thompkins only had two more catches for 16 yards and was slowly being fazed out of the offense as Dobson moved into the role he was drafted to play. The low point came when Thompkins was a healthy scratch in week nine against Pittsburgh.
But, ever resilient Thompkins proved why he deserves to be part of the Patriots winning ways. “Playing this game, you’ve got to be mentally tough.” Thompkins during an interview. “It’s about being steady because sometimes you’re going to have bad days and things are not going to go the way you had planned. Those are the days when your true character shows.
He stuck with it and got back on the map with two catches for 60 yards in week 11. Then in the Patriots biggest game of the season against Denver, Thompkins came on in the second half to record six catches for 56 yards.
While his reemergence may have something to do with a possible Dobson injury or that Josh McDaniels saying he likes to ride the hot hand, the team needs to make sure they find a way to incorporate him into the system as it’s clear he helps them win games.
Thompkins has proven that he has both the skill and the mental acuity to be an important part of this offense for the future and that’s why the Patriots need to start getting him the ball more as the season comes to a close. As the team continues to find its offensive identity and other players become healthier, the one thing they can count on is that Thompkins will be ready to produce whenever the Patriots need him.