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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Deven Thompkins Carves Out Niche in Victory Over Saints

In the division showdown in Week Four, Bucs’ second-year weapon Deven Thompkins ignited the offense

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In a head-to-head battle for first place in the NFC South between the Buccaneers and Saints on Sunday afternoon, Tampa Bay clinched the top slot with a rousing 26-9 victory. In the 60-minute showdown inside Caesars Superdome, Bucs' receiver Deven Thompkins made his mark between the hashes. 

With just under four minutes in regulation from third-and-goal, Baker Mayfield was flushed out of the pocket on a Saints' blitz. He kept his eyes downfield and locked in on Thompkins, who continued running to the right corner of the end zone to make himself available to the quarterback. Mayfield released a dart and Thompkins dove for the football, mimicking the famous Superman image, flying parallel to the floor for the touchdown. That play iced the win for the Bucs, as the visiting team advanced to 3-1.  

"He's a competitor," Todd Bowles described on Deven Thompkins. "He only knows one speed, he practices like that, [and] he plays like that. He's coming into his own. He's doing a great job for us on special teams, he's making his way as a receiver now, and he's starting to show up. He can run reverses, he can catch the ball, [and] he can run routes. He's probably thinking he is a 250-pound player when he is 150-pound player, but he's tough that way. We really rely on him."

The second-year receiver from Utah State made the Bucs' practice squad as an undrafted rookie in 2022 and earned several promotions to the active roster down the stretch of the season, playing in five games (one start), primarily as a kick returner.

During training camp in the summer, Thompkins once again morphed into a human highlight-reel, making outlandish acrobatic gravity-defying catches. Whether securing a jump-ball grab over a defender, adjusting to a deep ball in traffic, or slipping by defenders to generate yards after the catch, Thompkins' tantalizing athletic traits continue to garner attention. 

At his pro day last year, Thompkins ran the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.35 seconds. In addition, he posted a 38.5-inch vertical leap and a 132-inch broad jump. At Utah State in 2021, he imposed his will to the tune of 102 catches for 1,704 yards ― both school records, along with 10 touchdowns. 

"DT is probably one of the more explosive people that I have ever been around," said teammate Chris Godwin. "Day in and day out, he does some things that I am just like, 'That is just some DT stuff.'"

 At 5-foot-8, 167 pounds, Thompkins plays bigger than his small frame. There are few who can contort their body mid-air and climb the ladder in the way Thompkins impressively manages to do. Against the Saints, Thompkins was consistently utilized on pre-snap motion, because the threat of his speed, forced the defense to flow to the sideline, which freed up space near the line of scrimmage for several successful Baker Mayfield scrambles. 

"What we have is a couple of young guys with DT, Trey [Palmer] and [Rakim] Jarrett to get some movement on them and to try, whenever you can, to switch the pass strength with a quick motion or something like that which softens up the defense and helps your releases and makes the linebackers have to look at some things and assess," described Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales. "Something we have tried to build with DT throughout and it is a good thing." 

Thompkins Is lethal on jet sweeps, reverses and end arounds with his elusiveness in space. He can stretch the defense and possesses rare open-field burst to evade tacklers. He became an X-factor in the game, igniting the offense when Mike Evans exited the game with a hamstring injury. Whether accelerating post-cut to pick up yards down the perimeter or selling a release, Thompkins made a significant impact in Week Four. In addition to his touchdown, one of the most noteworthy plays came in the fourth quarter from third-and-five. Thompkins produced a nasty release, he initially faked to the outside with a quick cut off the line, and once the defensive back bit on the fake, he worked back to the inside with leverage and turned his body to Mayfield for the catch. Thompkins then cut upfield and turned on the jets for a first down to sustain the drive for Tampa Bay. 

"DT just brings energy," Canales stated. "The thing I tell the group all the time is, 'The ball finds energy.' So, if you break with a lot of juice, it just grabs the attention of the quarterback. It is no different than basketball where everyone is spreading out, someone breaks to the hoop fast and you see him, and dish it. It is the same feel with the football finding energy." 

Thompkins has the speed to beat coverage at the line of scrimmage with quick-twitch movements and can adjust in any direction to generate separation. He tracks the ball well downfield and is able to haul it in without breaking stride. Thompkins can stretch the field with a quick first step, and he is an underrated savvy route runner, adept at selling routes. He is electric with the ball in his hands and works to enhance his craft by unorthodox measures in practice. 

"[Yards after catch] is just something that I grew up with," Thompkins stated. "It is something that has always been a part of my game – being able to be shifty and I understand my attributes more than anything. I just always work on mastering that technique, like in practice, I do things that I probably would not do in a game setting just so that if the opportunity does present itself, I am ready for it." 

Thompkins, Tampa Bay's ascending star, put on a show against the Saints and took advantage of the opportunity, carving out his niche in the Bucs' offense.

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