FOXBOROUGH – The Patriots signed Brandon Browner to give them a big, physical cornerback. At 6-foot-4, Browner is the tallest corner in the NFL.
But on Wednesday, 6-foot-1 Kenbrell Thompkins got the better of his matchup with Browner on an end zone play, coming down with a perfectly placed ball from Tom Brady on a fade near the left sideline.
“Pretty much it’s just all focus,” Thompkins said of making the play. “Trying to lock in on the ball, making sure I keep my eyes on the ball and making sure I locate it and as soon as I get my hands on it, make sure I put it away.”
Browner and Darrelle Revis were brought in to fortify the Patriots’ secondary, but a byproduct of their presence in New England is making the receivers better.
“Very challenging,” Thompkins said of facing the duo. “Brandon Browner, he’s a tremendous athlete, long arms and everything like that. It’s just great competition to have those guys out there and competing for the ball. It’s a great challenge for us at the wide receiver position, but it’s our job to come down with [the ball].”
Undrafted out of Cincinnati last year, Thompkins was looking like an all-time find last spring and summer, and especially after a six-catch, 127-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Falcons in Week 4.
But that game turned out to be the high point of Thompkins’ rookie season. After recording 15 catches for 257 yards (17.1 yards per reception) and three touchdowns over the first four games of the year, he played in just eight of the final 12 in the regular season, with 17 catches for 209 yards (12.1 YPR) and one touchdown. He was inactive for the AFC Championship game, having been listed with hip and concussion injuries during the week.
After the disappointing end to last season, Thompkins was asked if he feels like he’s fighting for a job this year.
“I’m just out here trying to do my job. At the end of the day, I have no control over that; you’ll have to ask the coaches about that one. But I’m out here having fun, trying to go out here and compete every day, make sure I’m working hard,” he said.
Thompkins can control his effort and execution, which is what he said he’s been concentrated on.
“Pretty much just overall execution, making sure that I’m on top of the things I need to be on top of, that I’m doing everything at a high level, doing everything full speed,” the 25-year old said. “That’s what I’m coming out here trying to do: make sure that I’m competing, make sure that I’m working hard, make sure I’m doing my job.”
Follow Shalise Manza Young on Twitter @shalisemyoung.