Kenbrell Thompkins continued to impress Friday night.
The undrafted rookie has been one of the stars of the Patriots’ summer of 2013. Thompkins wasn’t out on the field much for the first drive, when the Patriots ran the ball all six plays. But in the second drive, he caught four passes for 23 yards from Tom Brady as the two appeared to be on the same page.
Thompkins barely played the remaining drives with Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow at the helm, which may lead one to believe the rookie is a member of the starting offense. Danny Amendola, Nate Solder, Logan Mankins, Ryan Wendell and Sebastian Vollmer only played with Brady, while Stevan Ridley took limited snaps with Tebow and Mallett.
Rookie Aaron Dobson was out on the first play of the game with Ridley at running back and Jake Ballard and Zach Sudfeld at tight end. Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Josh Boyce, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells also got reps with the first-team unit.
While it looks like pretty much everyone got equal opportunities, there is still something to glean from how Bill Belichick divvied up the snaps at the skill positions. For one, Julian Edelman and Kamar Aiken were not part of the first-team offense. That’s not to say they won’t get their reps, but they weren’t out there with Brady in the first game.
Dobson got a lot of action on Friday night with the second and third teams — more than Thompkins, Boyce or Amendola. And Dobson didn’t look flawless out there. He dropped a pass and couldn’t beat his defenders to the ball on two more. Dobson is intriguing due to his deep speed and leaping ability, but he can be slow out of his breaks in routes and he could stand to add some muscle, since he can get beat by the press.
It’s no surprise that Brady seemed to have the best chemistry with Shane Vereen. The running back was split out wide on first-and-10 at the Eagles’ 13-yard line. Brady and the running back had some non-verbal communication as linebacker Mychal Kendricks was lined up across from Vereen. Vereen went straight for the end zone for six points.
In all, Amendola and Ballard led the way with first-team reps with 12 snaps apiece in the first-team offense out of 16. Sudfeld had nine, Thompkins and Dobson had eight, Ridley and Boyce had six, Vereen and Blount had four, Fells had three, Hoomanawanui had five and Brandon Bolden had two.
So, for those (like myself) saying Ballard could be at risk of not making the 53-man roster, it’s time to put that talk to rest for now. Ballard seemed to be a big part of this offense on the first two drives, especially in the running game. Hoomanawanui was mostly used as a fullback for most of the night, while Sudfeld was used in Aaron Hernandez‘s old flex role.
Thompkins seemed to be assuming some of Hernandez’s old routes out there, though. It makes sense that he only averaged only 5.8 yards per catch. He was used on screens and comeback routes.
With so many moving pieces on offense, it seems like that there won’t be many players on offense that are in on every snap, barring Amendola, to start the season. Thompkins, Boyce, Dobson and the tight ends will all have their opportunities, and the ones that prove they can make the most of them will get more snaps moving forward.
For now, though, Thompkins looked to be the most impressive wide receiver and Sudfeld was impressive after the catch and was no slouch blocking. The Patriots’ first-team offense looked much better than some may have expected a month ago and that is in large part due to those two undrafted rookies.
Thompkins may look like Chad Ochocinco in his No. 85, but don’t expect any of the same mental errors out on the field. Thompkins has been the most consistent player in the Patriots’ offense this summer.