Brandon Thompkins is used to catching passes but he proved last week he can defend the pass, too.
Paul Stephens’ leg injury prompted the Shock to move Thompkins from his customary spot at wide receiver to defensive back, where he’s seen minimal playing time during his four Arena Football League seasons.
Thompkins made seven tackles in the Shock’s 73-62 win over a San Jose team that features experienced quarterback Russ Michna and proven receivers.
“He graded out the highest of all the defensive backs,” head coach Andy Olson said. “He understands how to play defensive back because he’s played receiver his whole life. He’s as athletic as anyone on the field. That helps him make up for mishaps but he didn’t have any broken coverages and he tackled well.”
It was common in the AFL’s not-so-distant past to see two-way players who lined up on offense and defense. Those iron-man days are basically gone but injuries and roster limits occasionally force players to switch positions. That typically results in a modest move, such as defensive lineman sliding back to Mac linebacker, where pass rush is the primary responsibility for both positions.
Thompkins practiced at defensive back all last week and remained in the secondary Tuesday as the Shock prepare for a home game against Portland on Saturday. Whether Thompkins remains on the defensive side of the ball depends on Stephens’ progress this week, Olson said.
“The (defensive) backs used to tell me when I was at receiver, ‘Man, you’re coming so fast.’ I used to think, ‘How fast can it be?’ Being on the other side I see it,” Thompkins said. “Guarding (Shock receiver) Mike Washington and our other receivers, they are moving.”
Thompkins tried to keep it simple. He knew his assignments but added that “you basically have to go off what you see and don’t over-think it because when you do that it causes you to slow down your movements.”
The list of players capable of moving from receiver to the secondary in the span of three to four practices is short, sixth-year defensive back Terrance Sanders said.
“He did a wonderful job,” Sanders said. “One time I didn’t even relay the call to him and he just played it. I was like, ‘Man, if you can do that you can do anything out here.’ ”
Thompkins is second on the team with 162 yards receiving. He’s also returned two kicks for 31 yards.
“I’m cool with staying (at defensive back) for a while,” he said. “I’ll do anything to help my team.”
Advantage at home
Spokane usually enjoys large crowds at the Arena but one other factor helps the Shock: practicing on their home turf. Spokane is scheduled to practice four straight days at the Arena prior to Portland’s visit. The Arena’s availability for Shock practices is subject to the facility’s event calendar.
“It absolutely helps,” Olson said. “It helps with the timing, the downfield passing with Erik throwing deep to the receivers and of course with the kicking game.”
The Shock’s practice facility in Spokane Valley has a low roof, which becomes an issue on longer passes and essentially prevents practicing PATs, field goals and kickoffs.
Shock quarterback Erik Meyer was named AFL offensive player of the week. Meyer accounted for eight touchdowns, four passing and a franchise-record four rushing, in Friday’s win over San Jose. Meyer is seven passing yards from reaching 7,000 in his career. L.A. Kiss linebacker Beau Bell was selected defensive player of the week. The former Shock player had four sacks in a victory over Portland.