Dallas Cowboys: Why WR Deonte Thompson could be BIG in ’18

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Deonte Thompson #10 of the Buffalo Bills catches a pass as he is defended by Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Deonte Thompson #10 of the Buffalo Bills catches a pass as he is defended by Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots during the second quarter of a game at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images) /

This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys added veteran receiver, Deonte Thompson, to their stable. Here’s why this underrated signing may be HUGE for them in 2018…

The Dallas Cowboys receiver corps is in flux. With Dez Bryant gone, Terrance Williams on ice, and nearly everyone else unproven, opportunities are aplenty in 2018. And that’s great news for speedster WR Deonte Thompson.

Deonte Thompson’s signing went largely unnoticed. The six-year vet has been a journeyman in his professional career, playing for three different teams and never accruing even 40 receptions in a single season. Yet, the stage has been set for huge season with the Dallas Cowboys and here’s why:

Speed Kills

Speed is an important asset on every NFL team. But on the Dallas Cowboys it’s pure gold. That’s primarily because the Cowboys severely lack in that department. The only other pass-catcher on the Dallas Cowboys who does have it is Tavon Austin and he’s unproven in his new role as ‘web back’.

Deonte Thompson, who ran a 4.31 40, is a well-proven outside weapon. He’s not going to carry an offense but he has the ability to stretch the field. Last season, his best as a pro, he rated as one of the NFL’s most successful deep threats.

New receivers coach Sanjay Lal had this to say about Thompson:

"“He’s bounced around and I have not figured out why because he’s a good route runner, he catches the ball, he’s got juice, and he’s a great competitor. And he’s shown that. He’s made a play every day out here – and usually a deep one. So really, really excited about what he brings.”"

Perfect Offensive Fit

It first appeared Thompson was signed to fill the void left by the bitterly estranged, Brice Butler. But as the Dallas Cowboys incorporate the run-pass option into their offensive attack, the role he’s set to assume may be much bigger than the 261 snaps Butler played last season.

Note: Does it surprise anyone else Butler had 261 snaps? I watched the All-22 all season and I would have guessed 75. What a disappointment. Ok, back to Deonte Thompson…

In the RPO, speed is needed to create immediate and reliable separation for downfield fly-routes. Since the passer needs to release the ball quickly (before his linemen get more than 1-yard downfield), the QB must trust his outside receiver has the ability to get under a deep ball down the sideline. The ability to do this adds an important element to the RPO and makes spacing work to the offense’s advantage.

Additionally, bubble screens make up an important part of the RPO for all the same reasons. Both Thompson and Austin figure to play a part on the bubble screen and both can stretch the field in opposite directions on any given play (Austin horizontally and Thompson vertically).

If a defender fears the deep speed, he’ll play off and open up possibilities for a bubble screen or slant. If he comes up and plays press, Dak can float a pass over the top and let his deep threat, Deonte Thompson, run underneath it. And if a safety is sitting over the top of it all, it opens up things for the running back and/or a route on the other side of the formation.

Respected deep speed is paramount to the balance of this offense and Deonte Thompson appears to be the only player capable of providing it (But we’re hopeful for a couple others)

Perfect Timing

With Terrance Williams recovering from injury (and possibly facing a suspension for his recent drunken escapades), the opportunity is there for Thompson to snag first team reps at the Z early. Williams is still too costly to cut this season, especially with such an unproven group behind him, but that doesn’t mean his role can’t be reduced.

At 6’0” 205lbs, Thompson has the size and build to hold up on the less-physical side of the formation. And if Deonte Thompson can prove to be a reliable route runner as well, he’ll have a real chance of stealing key snaps from T-Will this season.

High Ceiling

It’s not often you decree that a 29-year old receiver still has a high ceiling, but it appears to be the case here with Deonte. Injuries and sub-par QB play helped contribute to it but it really appears he’s just a late bloomer.

Last year, splitting time between Buffalo and Chicago, Thompson delivered his best season, pulling in 38 balls for 555 yards – good enough for a 14.6 yards per reception average. That season doubled the numbers of his 2016 season (previously his best). His arrow is pointed in one clear direction – up.

Deonte Thompson can win against press and off coverage. Last year he beat both coverages deep, proving that speed kills and he’s finally developed the nuance needed to beat opponents regardless of how they cover him.

Something Dallas Cowboys coaches are intrigued with is his ability to run the jet sweep. Not only is he a weapon deep, on a bubble screen, or on a slant but he’s also capable of running the rock on jet sweeps ala Lucky Whitehead. He’s so fast and diversified that he’s a threat on the field even without the ball in his hands.

Next: 4 Dallas pass-rushers who could make the Cowboys dominant

Deonte Thompson has been flashing in minicamps and fast becoming one of the biggest downfield weapons on the Dallas Cowboys. His ability to stretch the field and create big plays from multiple places not only make him a good bet to make the club, but a player who could challenge T-Will at the Z receiver spot.