New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

  • Two weeks ago, we took a dive into how a trio of Patriots rookies could have bigger roles for the team coming out of the bye week. That was based off tracking trends as to how the team has handled first-year players in recent years.

    One of the players we focused on was wide receiver Tyquan Thornton. With the offense looking for a spark, the idea was that Thornton could be in for the kind of second-half surge players like Jakobi Meyers and Rhamondre Stevenson had in their respective rookie years.

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  • However, that hasn’t been the case in the two games since the bye. In fact, the Patriots have significantly gone away from that recent trend – especially when it comes to play time. Against the Jets two weeks ago, Thornton played a season-low 27 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. That number increased slightly against Minnesota to 36 percent, but that’s still his second-lowest usage rate of the year – and came in a game that had Meyers limited for most of the night due to injury.

    When he’s on the field, Thornton’s role within the game plan has decreased as well. After a ‘feeling out process’ in his first game off IR in Week 5, Thornton played a key role in the Patriots’ Week 6 win over the Browns. He was targeted five times – catching four passes – and got three rushing attempts as well. Since then he’s been targeted 13 times total, catching only one pass in four consecutive games before not receiving a target Thursday night against the Vikings. He also hasn’t had a rushing attempt since that Cleveland game.

    A few things have changed for Thornton in recent weeks. When he’s on the field, the team is using him in the slot more frequently than they did when he first came off IR. In his first five games, he lined up on the boundary between 70 and 90 percent of the time. The last two weeks, that number has dipped below 70. With that, his targets are coming more over the middle and in the short and intermediate areas of the field.

  • CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 16: Tyquan Thornton #11 of the New England Patriots catches a pass during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    CLEVELAND, OHIO – OCTOBER 16: Tyquan Thornton #11 of the New England Patriots catches a pass during the first half against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on October 16, 2022 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

  • Despite the lack of production, coaches still seem happy with what they’re seeing from the team’s second-round pick. “I think Tyquan – I see him as a young player that’s ascending, and he’s getting better every single day,” wide receivers coach Ross Douglas said on Saturday. “The ball hasn’t really found him here in the past couple of weeks, but when you look at him on film he’s doing a lot of good things. He’s creating some separation. He’s blocking hard in the run game. He’s a player that will continue to improve, and by him just continuing to do what he’s doing he’ll be able to contribute more. We all like what we see out of him, and he’ll continue to get better.”

    Where are they looking for him to get better? “For a young player, I think they can improve everything,” Douglas added. “So as a receiver – stance to start, getting off the ball, really just getting open, catching the ball, blocking – he can get better at everything. He’s only been an NFL player for a couple months now, and he was hurt for a little bit. So really, he’s just getting back into it. He can continue to improve on everything, and he will.”

    So basically, this seems to be the case of the Patriots carefully managing a rookie’s development. That was the external expectation when he was drafted, and then again when he had to begin the season on IR due to a broken collarbone. After significant exposure early against two of the league’s worst defenses in the Lions and Browns, the team has limited him as they’ve faced tougher defenses over the last month.

  • As the team comes down the stretch will his role continue to wane? Given the schedule, it may be beneficial for them to call the number of a player with his explosiveness against some of their upcoming opponents.

    To this point, the Patriots have been able to won the games they’ve won with defense, with explosive offensive plays not as prevalent.  Over their final six games, that likely won’t be the case. Five of their final six opponents rank in the top 10 in the NFL in scoring, including the Bills (2nd in the league at 28.1 points per game) twice.

    Can Thornton be the one to give the Patriots a boost against a Bills defense they’ve struggled against in recent years (12.6 points per game since 2020)? He’ll be a player to watch Thursday night.

  • Tyquan Thornton’s 2022 game log

    Rec. Rush Snaps
    Date Wk Opp Result GS Tgt Rec Yds TD Att Yds TD Num Pct
    2022-09-11 1 @ MIA L 7-20 IR DNP
    2022-09-18 2 @ PIT W 17-14 IR DNP
    2022-09-25 3 BAL L 26-37 IR DNP
    2022-10-02 4 @ GNB L 24-27 IR DNP
    2022-10-09 5 DET W 29-0 3 2 7 0 0 0 0 25 42%
    2022-10-16 6 @ CLE W 38-15 5 4 37 1 3 16 1 40 57%
    2022-10-24 7 CHI L 14-33 * 5 1 19 0 0 0 0 44 85%
    2022-10-30 8 @ NYJ W 22-17 2 1 13 0 0 0 0 61 78%
    2022-11-06 9 IND W 26-3 * 4 1 5 0 0 0 0 42 67%
    2022-11-20 11 NYJ W 10-3 2 1 5 0 0 0 0 17 27%
    2022-11-24 12 @ MIN L 26-33 * 20 36%
    Total 5-2-0 21 10 86 1 3 16 1
    Provided by View Original Table
    Generated 11/29/2022.
  • Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at [email protected].

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