Programming note: Raiders head coach Tony Sparano and quarterback Derek Carr are scheduled to address the media starting at 4:50 p.m. Watch the live stream right here
ALAMEDA – Kenbrell Thompkins sped down the left sideline with Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden covering him well. The newest Raiders receiver hit the brakes, turned around and saw a pass headed for his back shoulder.
Momentum carried away, so Thompkins reached out and snagged Derek Carr’s fastball one-handed.
While Thompkins didn’t pat his own back for the effort, Carr made a mental note: That’s a guy you can trust.
“When he makes crazy one-handed catches like that, I’m going to keep throwing to him,” Carr said. “My goodness. That’s a tough grab on a great corner. He’s a good player. I think the world of our receivers, and Kenbrell has done a great job of putting in the time required to learn about what we’re trying to do here. You can tell it means a lot to him.”
Thompkins has put maximum effort into learning the Raiders’ scheme since being claimed off waivers on Oct. 6 from the New England Patriots.
The second-year pro admits to being “caught off guard” by his New England release, especially after coach Bill Belichick lauded his talents all offseason.
Thompkins had 32 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, but the Patriots needed his roster spot for defensive depth.
The smarts, speed and work ethic remained intact after the cross-country trip from a playoff contender to a winless team. Thompkins was committed to contributing fast. Part of that is building chemistry with the quarterback, which is fostered in practice and cemented with reliability in games.
“We spend a lot of time in practice, even after practice we’ll get a couple of throws in, just trying to get a feel for each other and trying to get on the same page,” Thompkins said. “I think we’re doing a good job with that. We’re just trying to string together good days and put it all together on Sunday.”
While several Raiders can secure catches in tight coverage and make aggressive plays on the ball, few have Thompkins’ speed and ability to separate from coverage. That gave him snaps earlier that many expected, with 31 snaps against Arizona just two weeks into his Raiders tenure.
He played 50 in a starting role against Cleveland, and had four catches for 34 yards.
Carr likes to spread the ball around to receivers he knows and trusts, and Thompkins hopes his play warrants a steady spot in the rotation.
“It does a lot of good things when you have trust in one another,” Thompkins said. “The quarterback needs to know he can count on you to be where you need to be and you need to know you can trust the quarterback to put the ball where it needs to be. Trust and accountability is such a big thing.”