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Thompkins release another Patriots offensive disappointment

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Last September undrafted rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, a pleasant surprise of summer work, seemed like a key part of Bill Belichick's "re-do" of the Patriots wide receiver roster. But by this week, the young receiver was suddenly an expendable part of a lackluster receiving corps who found himself released by New England barely a year into his career in Foxborough.

It was another strange turn for a Patriots offense that's failed to live up to expectations early this season and continues to search for productive answers.

The Cincinnati product led the New England offense in targets from Tom Brady in two of the first four weeks of the 2013 season, including 14 targets in his season-opening NFL debut. He had three touchdowns in his first four pro games, including a 100-yard effort to play a big role in a win in Atlanta.

But aside from a game-winning, last-second touchdown to beat the Saints at home, Thompkins rookie season petered out significantly after its early production. The young receiver battled injury and inconsistency – both in terms of hands and route running – on the way to a rookie campaign that included 36 catches for 466 yards and four scores.

Down the stretch of his rookie year Thompkins was targeted three or fewer times in four of the final five games he played in, while missing four other games to injury.

Given the offseason addition of Brandon LaFell, re-signing of Julian Edelman and expected advancements of Danny Amendola and fellow 2013 rookies Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, Thompkins entered training camp this past summer in a projected battle for a roster spot.

He did more than enough in camp and preseason action to distance himself from his fellow sophomores – Boyce ended up on the practice squad while Dobson missed most of the summer coming back from foot surgery – while seemingly building a growing comfort level with Brady.

Thompkins even had five catches in the opener in Miami. But he was a healthy inactive the next week, caught just one pass in Minnesota and then was inactive again last Monday night against the Chiefs. Less than a week later, he was out of work.

It's not that Thompkins was an immense talent in his time with the Patriots. His inconsistency – both from game to game and even play to play – was infuriating at times. That said, he's certainly been no more frustrating than Dobson, Amendola or even LaFell, who broke out with six catches for 119 yards in borderline garbage time in the blowout loss last week in Kansas City.

As Brady himself has point out, Edelman is the only receiver or offensive player of any type who's played at a high enough level this season. Everyone else has been a disappointment. But it's a bit surprising that after earning a spot on the team, Thompkins was seen as expendable a month into the season for an offense that's not exactly bursting with productive options.

While Thompkins ceiling of potential was indeed seemingly limited, it's hard to argue he's been more of a disappointment than almost anyone else on the receiver depth chart. While he lacks the NFL resume and big-money contracts of veteran disappointments like Amendola and LaFell, he also offers a bit more potential on the outside at receiver than the two veterans.

The Patriots future will likely not be greatly affected by the release of Thompkins, who probably would have been/will be no more than a complementary NFL player. But it's another surprising shakeup and tumultuous move for an offense that neither knows its best five group of offensive linemen nor, really, which receivers it can count on to make plays.

And maybe most surprising was that Thompkins was released to apparently make room for practice squad linebacker Ja'Gared Davis on the roster, not to activate either cornerback Brandon Browner or potential deep-threat receiver Brian Tyms after the pair returned this week from four-game league drug suspensions.

The Patriots head into Sunday night's battle with the Bengals with plenty to prove and plenty of questions to answer. Thompkins' seemingly curious release is only another to add to that already somewhat alarming early season list.

What did you think of the Thompkins release? Let us know with a comment below!

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