Brady: Trust gained in WR who fights for ball

Brady: Trust gained in WR who fights for ball
October 3, 2013, 11:30 am
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FOXBORO – Every March at the NFL Combine wide receiver prospects display their speed, explosiveness, vertical jump and soft hands. And they all look so capable.

But they can’t measure fight in those drills. The determination that a good receiver shows, saying, “If I don’t catch it, nobody does…” can’t be measured in a controlled drill.

You have to see it on the field. And when you see it, you know you’ve got something.
Kenbrell Thompkins seems to have it.

Sunday in Atlanta, Thompkins came back to steal an underthrown deep pass by Tom Brady away from a Falcons defender. A 49-yard gain out of what should have been a turnover. Later, Thompkins went over the middle on third-and-19 and pulled in a 26-yard dart from Brady, narrowly avoiding a blowup hit by safety Will Moore.

There’s never been a quarterback that abhors turnovers like Tom Brady. A receiver who’ll fight for him is one he’ll throw to again and again.

“That’s so important, to trust that a guy can make a play when there’s one-on-one coverage,” Brady said Wednesday. “When the ball is up in the air, it’s up for grabs. I’ve been around a lot of players where, especially guys with defensive mentalities like defensive backs, they feel they need to go attack the ball. When I was in college with Charles Woodson, he would go after that football as a defensive player and that was his ball when it was in the air. Then when we put him at receiver, it was really the same way which made him probably one of the best receivers on our team at the time too. That’s really where I learned that, is you – not only professionally – you watch guys that attack the football.”

For all the great things Brady and Randy Moss did together, Moss was generally disinclined to rough up or go through a defensive back when a ball was up for grabs. Same with Brandon Lloyd. Talented, but too often leaving his feet to make catches while corners were driving on the ball. The noted blowup between Brady and Bill O’Brien was touched off by Brady reaming Tiquan Underwood for not breaking up a poorly thrown ball.  

If you’ll compete physically for the ball – and nobody, in my opinion, ever fought harder for the ball than Troy Brown – you’re a friend of Brady’s.

“We’ve had a lot of guys that have played with us: Kevin Faulk, Troy [Brown] definitely,” Brady recalled. “You watch Tony Gonzalez the other night, he goes and gets the football when it’s in the air.
“That’s what a quarterback can really gain trust in: when that ball is there, your guy is either going to come down with it and certainly their guy won’t and if nobody does, nobody does,” Brady summarized.

Brady admitted that a non-competitive wideout is hard to trust.

“The risk-reward in a situation like that … football is a game of risk-reward. Especially when you’re throwing it, when you put it in a place where your guy can make a play on it and the other guy comes down with it, you have to think twice the next time you’re in that situation,” he explained. “But if your guy is always coming down with it, then you keep giving him opportunities. That’s how trust works and you build that in practice, you build it in games and you just keep working on it.”

Anquan Boldin was the unofficial MVP of the playoffs last year for Baltimore because – even though he’s past his prime in terms of speed – he’s at the top of his game in terms of outdueling defensive backs with strength, body position and physicality. There is a measure of Boldin in Thompkins, although the 220-pound Boldin is more effective because of experience and 25 more pounds on his frame than Thompkins.

Speaking of the long pass to Thompkins, Brady said, “He’s done great since he got here; that’s why he’s been out there so much, why he’s had so many opportunities because he continues to do those things. That gains trust, certainly in me but also Coach [Bill] Belichick, [Offensive Coordinator] Josh [McDaniels], the other players on the team. When the ball is going to a particular guy and good things are happening, you just want to keep giving him the ball. You have to find different ways to get it, but whenever you’re coming down with those balls, that’s a great thing.”