The competition for the Ravens' final receiver spots may be closer than any other position on the team.
Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak said it's the tightest receiver battle he's ever seen. Head Coach John Harbaugh told reporters this week that the preseason games will be critical in determining which receivers play their way onto the team.
Perhaps no player made a better case for himself Saturday against the Cowbys than third-year wideout Deonte Thompson. The speedy receiver delivered the games' biggest play when he ran back a kickoff for a 108-yard touchdown.
"Deonte made a statement tonight," Harbaugh said.
Thompson knew how significant his strong showing was with the first round of cuts just over a way away.
"It was big," Thompson said. "I'm in a tough competition right now, so everything counts and it was big for me personally."
Thompson's touchdown came early in the first quarter against the Cowboys' top special teams unit. The speedy receiver cut left and found a seam in the coverage, blowing by everyone on his way to the end zone.
"He is lightning fast," Harbaugh said. "When he gets loose like that you're not going to catch him."
Not only did Thompson break the long touchdown, but he nearly did it again. Thompson reeled off a 50-yard return on his next chance, finishing the game with a total of 188 kickoff return yards on three attempts.
Thompson is battling behind Torrey Smith, Steve Smith Sr., Jacoby Jones and Marlon Brown for a receiver spot. He's competing with Kamar Aiken, Michael Campanaro and undrafted rookie Jeremy Butler. The Ravens typically keep five or six receivers on the 53-man roster.
Training camp was up and down for Thompson, who has been with the Ravens since 2012. He's made some big plays, but also struggled with a few drops in practice.
"I think I'm having a pretty good camp," Thompson said. "I just had a couple of deep balls I didn't bring in and kind of got to me. But that happens to the best of them. It should be good."
Thompson and the rest of the receivers have one more preseason game next week against the Redskins to make their case for job before the roster gets trimmed to 75 players. It's up in the air whether Thompson has shown enough to cement his spot on the team, but he made a clear push in that direction Saturday night.
"He showed up big time," Harbaugh said. "It was good to see that."