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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Deven Thompkins: Optimizing Growth Through Speed Processing 

During training camp, second-year wide receiver Deven Thompkins continues to shine between the hashes

Deven Thompkins Story

Throughout opening week of training camp, many players have begun to emerge for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Some have their roles cemented and others are desperately seeking a coveted spot on the final 53-man roster. Second-year receiver Deven Thompkins falls into the latter category. The first three spots are solidified with fixtures Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Russell Gage Jr. The remaining spots are up for grabs and an intriguing battle has ensued with Thompkins as a contestant.

Thompkins, a 2022 undrafted free agent, turned heads during last year's training camp in one-on-one drills, winning on vertical routes with blazing 4.42-speed and out-leaping 6-foot corners for receptions. He earned a spot on the Bucs' practice squad and later replaced Jaelon Darden as the primary punt and kick returner. At 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, Thompkins plays bigger than his small frame. A fiery competitive streak and physicality are certainly prerequisites for the NFL and Thompkins embodies both on the field.

At Utah State in 2021, he was the second-leading receiver in college football with 102 catches for 1,704 yards (16.7 average) and 10 touchdowns. With the Buccaneers, Thompkins continues to show flashes out on the practice field with his shiftiness. Thompkins' elusiveness in space is a perfect fit for the retooled Dave Canales offensive system in Tampa Bay, featuring an uptick in movement. The reimagined offense marries the run and pass game to set up play-action. Throughout training camp, Thompkins has elevated the passing attack on jet sweeps, motions and end arounds, adding an infusion of speed to the mix. He gives defenders fits with his ability to put his foot in the ground and get upfield. Thompkins is decisive in making cuts and quickly accelerates to top speed, maneuvering around congestion.

He averaged 22 yards per kick return and over 10 yards per punt return over the last five games of the regular season in 2022 for the Bucs and caught five passes for 32 yards. Speed is atop the hierarchy on Thompkins' resumé and this season, he is focused on harnessing and unleashing that skill through mental processing. There is abundantly more to savvy route running or exploiting coverage units than speed and in 2023, Thompkins has prioritized controlling tempo to optimize growth on the gridiron.

"I have grown a lot in my understanding of speed, understanding of what is actually happening on the field and being able to see how the defense moves in it," Thompkins described. "Also, understanding how to be slower in my thought process. I am trying to be more under control. Sometimes, I do things a little too fast, relying on my speed and I have been learning to slow it down. Now, I am learning to work within my controlled speed."

During the first week of training camp, Thompkins made several highlight-worthy plays during the team period, including an acrobatic lunge mid-air to haul in a pass from Baker Mayfield on Sunday. He followed behind Chris Godwin, who ran an in-route and was covered, so the ball came in Thompkins' direction. He plucked it out of the air and took advantage of the rep, sparking cheers from a vivacious Tampa Bay crowd. Thompkins' explosion off the line of scrimmage catches flat-footed defenders off guard.

With the coaching staff lining up Godwin more on the outside in 2023, Thompkins has received additional reps in the slot, showcasing his change-of-direction skill and route precision. He can deceive defenders with a fly, then hit a curl route. Thompkins' elite footwork and quick-twitch moves generate separation. He can track the deep ball and is slippery after the catch. With the ability to sell routes, along with his vertical prowess, Thompkins continues to garner attention.

The explosive playmaker has absorbed information from arguably the best wide receiver tandem in the NFL, Godwin and Mike Evans, spurring his development. The duo has taught Thompkins to embrace an individualistic, "be you" approach, fostering ascension in the second-year player.

Thompkins is battling for one of the remaining spots on the receiver depth chart and making sensational catches like the one on Sunday afternoon certainly fortifies his compelling case. He is an under-the-radar player to keep an eye on during the remainder of camp.

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