Cincinnati's Brandon Thompson Trying To Make A Name For Himself

The Bengals' defensive tackle has an anonymous name, but in front of it he's recently added three potentially profile-raising words: impending free agent.

Bengals' defensive tackle Brandon Thompson has a fairly anonymous name, a situation that he hasn't been able to improve while facing the rigors of the NFL as a career reserve. But he's recently added three words in front of his name that may serve one day to raise his profile: impending free agent.

Thompson had his 2015 season ended in the regular-season finale after getting his head around three letters players are loathe to hear: ACL. He tore it against the Ravens, and it couldn't have been timed worse as he was all set to hit the open market with unknown possibilities, perhaps in another uniform where a fresh start would hold the possibility of a new lease on life.

Even with the right knee injury, which could shelve him for a significant portion of the calendar year, and despite his ability to stay on the field as a consistent force when he's healthy, Thompson is drawing interest from other NFL teams, namely from those who know him.

Though the injury could idle Thompson until some time in the middle of next season, one report has Tampa Bay holding interest in his services, a development that's at least founded in some logic. New Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes is familiar with him after coaching Thompson for four years in Cincinnati. Hayes knows Thompson will come cheap, with some upside, especially against the run. So do the Bengals.

Once in good health, and if he joins the Buccaneers, Thompson would figure to be battling Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence and any other Bucs free agents and/or draft pics for playing time behind mainstay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. Thompson's spot on the Bengals is under siege, under the direction of a new position coach, a situation worsened by the prospect of Bengals draft picks added to the mix in April.

It's not the Georgia native's fault that his first name checks in at No. 64 among the 100 most common male names in America and his last name is the 16th-most common. On the disambiguation page listing articles about people named Brandon Thompson, four people are there.

When it comes to facing NFL shortcomings, Thompson can only look at himself and know the answer why he's nothing more than a quality situational run defender. No matter the conclusion, his sporadic play amid opportunity has not reflected that of a third-round 2012 draft choice, despite immense personal athletic ability in one very large and mobile 6-foot-2, 305-pound locomotive-like package.

All has not been a disappointment for Thompson, a squatty nose tackle-type. According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bengals allowed 3.1 yards per carry with Thompson on the field in 2014. When he wasn't on the field, the number jumped to 4.6 yards. It's based on small sample sizes, but there's little doubt Thompson can be a difference maker against the run. But he continues to be a liability on passing downs. Even at Clemson, he struggled to create penetration while totaling 4.5 sacks in 38 starts. The Bengals projected him as a gap shooter, but he's mainly just filled in the gaps on their roster.

It certainly would be appropriate, however, if Thompson bloomed late and made a breakthrough in the NFL. For a city with less than 20,000 people, his native Thomasville has launched more than its share of careers in the sports and entertainment industry. It's the birth place of Academy Award-winning actress Joanne Woodward, founding member and singer for the Temptations Elbridge Bryant, country music artist Stephanie Bentley, and Bailey White, author and commentator for the National Public Radio program All Things Considered.

Football players hailing from Thomasville include former Cowboys running back Tashard Choice, one-time Giants and Patriots safety Myron Guyton, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward Jr. of Florida State who later played for the NBA New York Knicks, and former Pro Bowlers such as running back William Andrews, cornerback Sam Madison, guard Guy McIntyre and defensive tackle Marcus Stroud.

It remains to be seen if Thompson can add his name, but time is ticking. He turns 27 Oct. 19. He's managed just seven injury-induced starts, during a 2013 season when he posted career-highs with 16 games, 23 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one pass defensed after Geno Atkins was lost to a season-ending knee injury.

Thompson himself has been injury-plagued while getting into 39 of a possible 64 Bengals games, with 53 career tackles and three sacks. He had more than one tackle in just two games in 2015, while totaling eight tackles in nine appearances with half a sack. He was placed on the Reserved/Injured list Jan. 6 after suffering the knee injury Jan. 3. He played in 11 games in 2014, missing Games 3-7 with a hurt knee. He played just 184 snaps in 2015 after being in on 259 in 2014.

He held the starting defensive tackle job opposite Domata Peko in 2013 for the last seven regular-season games and the Wild Card playoff as Atkins' replacement, but couldn't supplant the aging Peko nor the average Pat Sims when Atkins returned from injury and Sims returned to the team via free-agency. The Bengals signed Thompson to a four-year rookie contract in 2012, a year they used two early picks on defensive tackles while also drafting Devon Still in the second round.

Still couldn't cut it with the Bengals, though he was taken one round before Thompson. Now, it's Thompson who is at a crossroads while still trying to make a name for himself.

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