New England Patriots

New England Patriots

New England Patriots

Jul 30, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) walks to the practice field at the Patriots training camp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots had plenty of key players who made a good first impression at OTAs on Wednesday in Foxboro, for one reason or another. Here’s who we liked watching on the practice field…

  • WR Tyquan Thornton

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - AUGUST 11: Tyquan Thornton #11 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the preseason game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on August 11, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

  • Yes, he was basically running against air, and there’s no way to know how he will handle physical coverage in real games based on this practice. But Thornton looked predictably fast, but more promisingly, sharp in his routes and quick in and out of his breaks. He caught two passes from Mac Jones in 11-on-11 drills, and more in less competitive sessions.

    If the Patriots have any hope of being more explosive at wide receiver and on offense in general, that hope comes in the form of Thornton. Good start for the second-year wideout.

  • TE Mike Gesicki

    MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - AUGUST 20: Mike Gesicki #88 of the Miami Dolphins heads upfield after making a catch during the second quarter of the preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Hard Rock Stadium on August 20, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    Gesicki lined up both in the slot and out wide, as basically a big wide receiver. And he showed off his rare quickness and route-running ability for a guy his size, catching two passes from Jones in 11s.

    We want to temper expectations, because Jonnu Smith looked like a dynamic, versatile weapon in his first camp with the Patriots, too. But Gesicki is also off to a good start based on OTAs.

  • RB Kevin Harris

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 12: Kevin Harris #36 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Mac Jones #10 and Tyquan Thornton #11 after scoring a 14 yard touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals during the second quarter of the game at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

  • How will the Patriots replace the snaps of the departed Damien Harris? With the newer, younger Harris, apparently. With Rhamondre Stevenson limited in practice, Kevin Harris looked like the lead dog in running game drills.

    That’s a good sign for the sophomore sixth-round pick out of South Carolina, who is looking to build on a rookie season in which he flashed some real power running ability when given opportunities.

  • WR Demario Douglas

    Nov 5, 2022; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Liberty Flames wide receiver Demario Douglas (3) returns a kick during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Liberty won 21-19. Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

    Realistically, Douglas still has a long way to go. And it’s hard to tell how close he is especially with JuJu Smith-Schuster absent on Wednesday. But he was getting reps as both a receiver and returner, and he looked quick and shifty.

    Douglas may have a skill set as a slot receiver that no one else on the Patriots can provide, so he could have a surprisingly impactful rookie year.

  • OT Calvin Anderson

    Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Denver Broncos offensive tackle Calvin Anderson (76) against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    With Trent Brown absent, Anderson was getting starter’s reps at left tackle. So, the 27-year-old former Broncos tackle looks to have an opportunity to play in the event that Brown is hurt or underperforming.

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  • It’s fair to note that Conor McDermott was used as an extra tackle, and so it’s unclear if he might be more in line for snaps. But Anderson looks to be at least the top backup left tackle at the moment.

    DL Keion White

    Georgia Tech DE Keion White (Georgia Tech Athletics)

    Georgia Tech Athletics

    White made a good first impression just by simply being huge. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman has a combo of size and athleticism that no one else on the roster can claim.

    Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, and Matthew Judon were all absent, so it remains to be seen if White will actually get a big workload as a rookie. But he stands out by merely existing.

  • LB Marte Mapu

    Sacramento State linebacker Marte Mapu (Sacramento State Athletics)

    Sacramento State Athletics

  • Mapu was a curious draft pick, but it appears the Patriots see him as a real chess piece on defense. Mapu was used in a variety of ways during team drills on Wednesday, which we can’t detail too much according to NFL rules. But he was tasked with a variety of passing-down assignments that you don’t often see with a Pats linebacker, and he did it in a non-contact jersey.

    This is a rookie who might make a bigger impact than expected, based on how the Patriots are apparently trying to deploy him.

  • OG Bill Murray

    Jun 16, 2021; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots defensive lineman Bill Murray (97) participates in a drill during the New England Patriots mini camp at the New England Patriots practice complex. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Murray’s transition from defensive line to offensive line appears complete, as he was getting starter reps at right guard with Mike Onwenu (ankle surgery) absent. It appears he will have a real opportunity to make the 53-man roster as a backup interior lineman.

  • DB Ameer Speed

    Michigan State's Ameer Speed goes after a ball that was blocked during a Rutgers field goal attempt during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022, in East Lansing. (Syndication: Lansing State Journal)

    Lansing State Journal

  • We already knew Speed lived up to his name, but what really stood out about him at practice was his size and length. He got a good amount of reps in team drills on defense, which may not necessarily be his calling card right away.

    Speed could make an immediate impact in special teams coverage, but if he can prove he can defend better than anyone at the 2023 draft realized, the Patriots have a dynamic athlete to work with.

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    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 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. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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