New England Patriots

  • The Patriots offense is struggling to get on the same page at training camp, but the individual talent has stood out. And few have looked more promising than rookie receiver Tyquan Thornton.

    In a gift to Patriots fans who may be desperate for something to feel good about, Ian Steele of ABC 6 in Providence was able to capture Thornton making arguably the best play of the day, which you can watch above. Lined up against projected starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell, Thornton stops for what looks like a short hitch, then accelerates quickly back up the field, leaving Mitchell in the dust. And of course, he caught the ball. In a real game, it would’ve been a long touchdown.

    Thornton continues to make plays and look a little better every day. He’s already the Patriots’ fastest receiver, but as you can see in the video, he’s also a smooth route-runner with soft hands. He’s incredibly quick in and out of his breaks, allowing him to get bursts of separation in the short areas of the field. And the acceleration. My lord.

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  • “I put a lot of pride into it, coming out every day, working on my releases, my combatives, using my hands at the line, trying to be more aggressive and getting in and out of my breaks real fast,” Thornton told reporters last week. “Just being fast and quick at the same time.”

    Thornton has been impressing his teammates in the Patriots secondary, particularly with his route versatility. It’s possible that, because Thornton is so fast – he ran a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash, the fastest among all receivers at the 2022 combine – he became typecast as a pure burner. But that’s not totally accurate.

    “Of course we all know that he’s fast,” cornerback Jalen Mills, who’s projected as the team’s No. 1 guy on the outside, said last week. “I think the biggest thing for me seeing from him as a rookie, he’s just not running go routes every single play. You see him working his short to intermediate routes as well. I think that’s what you want to see from a fast guy, because we know he could [run fast] at any moment.”

  • Mitchell, whom Thornton toasted on the big play, is projected as the Patriots’ No. 2 outside cornerback. He’s outplayed Malcolm Butler in camp, and rookie Jack Jones looks like he has a ways to go. The hope is that he was going up against a future star No. 1 receiver, which he’s never been equipped to do. Ideally, he’ll absorb the Pats’ coaching and be put in more of a position to succeed.

    As far as the Patriots’ receiver hierarchy? Based on reps and designations so far, Thornton still looks like the No. 5 guy, behind (in no particular order) Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and DeVante Parker. But if Thornton continues to make noise in camp, and gains enough trust from head coach Bill Belichick to rotate in regularly in three-receiver sets, there’s a chance he makes a guy like Agholor expendable.

    Regardless, it looks, feels, and SMELLS like the Patriots have landed an actual talented wide receiver with the addition of Thornton. Play strength and press-man coverage remain the biggest question marks for him, and that’s likely to be an area where teams can slow him down. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots try to scheme him open off the line as a way of avoiding more physical corners.

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) does a drill at the team's OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) does a drill at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s about friggin’ time that the Patriots drafted a dynamic player who could actually produce on the field, at this position. Much of New England certainly got nervous when the Pats took Thornton 50th overall in the 2022 draft, then fellow wideouts George Pickens (Steelers), Alec Pierce (Colts), and Skyy Moore (Chiefs) went picks 52-54.

    It remains to be seen how those four guys rank out, but the early returns on Thornton look like the Pats have a good player in their own right.

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  • “I feel like it’s coming along good, just putting the best foot forward every day, getting better,” Thornton said.

    The Patriots are scheduled to practice again on Tuesday at noon, with the pre-season opener coming Thursday night against the New York Giants at Gillette Stadium. Thornton will almost certainly get some snaps in that game, and give most Patriots fans their first glimpse at what looks like a legitimately good receiver.

    Click here for complete Patriots training camp coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

  • Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.