On Tuesday, Pro Football Talk reported that second-year Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Deonte Thompson is receiving praise from the organization.
In a wide receiver competition that is as wide open as possible behind Torrey Smith, every receiver on the team will likely receive some sort of praise before training camp is completed.
However, it certainly doesn’t hurt Thompson’s case that he’s earning praise now and is considered a true competitor for the second starting receiver job opposite Smith.
Thompson will be competing with a myriad of fellow young receivers for the other starting job, including Tandon Doss, Tommy Streeter, and veteran Jacoby Jones, who currently appears to be the favorite to win the job.
Of course, no competition is won in May, and the wide receiver depth chart for the Ravens likely won’t be complete until the final week in August at the earliest. But in a year that will give almost every receiver on the Ravens roster a true chance to earn a significant role, Thompson has the capability of taking the next step.
He already has a slight advantage over Streeter, since Thompson was active for six games in 2012 while Streeter spent his rookie year on injured reserved. Thompson was used primarily as a kick returner before Jones assumed the role after the game against the Kansas City Chiefs in October. In that game, Thompson fumbled the ball on a kick return and he was never able to get back into the mix as a return man.
He spent the rest of the season on the active roster, but never suited up again until the final game of the regular season, when he caught four passes for 26 yards. He finished the season with five catches for 51 yards.
In the preseason, however, he caught 10 passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for an undrafted free agent.
Thompson showed during his sparse play in 2012 that he is a reliable, sure-handed receiving target. He stands at just 6’0,” and looks smaller than that when paired against opposing defenders. While he has above average speed, in 2012 he was required to run primarily short yardage routes. None of the receivers competing for the second starting receiver job, besides Jones, are inherent deep threats, so reliability in the short and mid-yardage passing game will likely be the final determinant. Streeter uses his long strides and athleticism to become a deep threat; however, his speed wasn’t on display too much in the 2012 preseason, so the jury is still out on him until he sees more playing time.
For Thompson, along with every other young receiver competing for playoff time, the starting job isn’t the end-all-be-all. With no clear-cut starter opposite Smith, the Ravens will likely use a wide-receiver-by-committee tactic in 2013.
Thompson, Jones, Streeter, Doss and maybe even LaQuan Williams or rookie Aaron Mellette could make an impact in 2013.
With a full year in the NFL and six regular season games under his belt, Thompson may be ready to take the next step. It’s a wide-open competition, and with Thompson’s talent, he could assert himself near the top of the group of competitors for the starting job by training camp’s end.