The Tyquan Thornton hype train is starting to rev up
August 2nd, 2022
Wide receiver Tyquan Thornton during Patriots training camp on July 28, 2022. (Syndication: The Providence Journal)
You hear that noise off in the distance? That faint whistle? Sounds like it’s getting closer. Is that thunder? Why is the ground shaking?
BAM! Too late. You’ve been struck by the Tyquan Thornton hype train. Choo-choo, my friend. Choo-choo.
I’ve lost it, I know. But in all seriousness, Thornton is doing a classic Patriots thing so far at 2022 training camp: he’s getting a little bit better every day. He’s made more of a consistent impression than N’Keal Harry ever did in a six-day span. His physical tools have impressed when given the opportunity. And most recently, he’s started to parlay that into actual playmaking.
There’s still a ways to go, and the offense has work to do to get everyone on the same page as a unit. But with each day, Thornton’s individual talent has stood out more.
During Tuesday’s practice in Foxboro, Thornton hauled in a deep ball from quarterback Mac Jones that was dropped nicely over his shoulder, after getting a half-step on Jalen Mills in coverage. On Monday, he broke off an initial push by Joejuan Williams to adjust to a 50-yarder from Jones, and secured the ball as he tumbled to the turf.
You can see that it’s not just the sub-4.3 speed with Thornton. He moves fluidly and has shown good change-of-direction ability, with sure hands to match. He’s really been the anti-Harry so far. Obviously, if he’s even a serviceable No. 4 or 5 receiver as a rookie, he will have already surpassed the now-infamous 2019 first-round pick.
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“I mean, it’s pretty obvious that I’m fast, so now I’m just trying to fill in all the other areas,” Thornton said last week, when asked about his speed. “Strength, route-running, contested catches, and try to become a full, complete receiver.”
He can check the “contested catches” box for the last couple of practices. The routes have looked solid – when he runs the right way. One of Mac Jones’ 11-on-11 interceptions appeared to happen because Thornton ran upfield when he was supposed to stop. Jones threw the ball right to cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who was all by himself as he sat in his zone.
The “strength” part could hold Thornton back. His wiry frame (6-foot-2, 181 pounds) ostensibly hurt his draft stock in the eyes of GMs and scouts. He has a ways to go to prove he can make plays against strong press-man coverage off the line. But if anything’s going to hold him back in his rookie year in New England, it’ll be the process of gaining trust from Bill Belichick.
Perhaps New England is simply starved of high-end talent, especially at wide receiver, so we’re latching onto the first kid to display any kind of skill for the position. That’s possible. But Thornton has also been rotating in with the starters since the start of camp. It feels like the trust is already building.
May 23, 2022; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (51) works with training aids at the team’s OTA at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Hype can be a real bitch. So it’s important not to drum up too much of it for a soon-to-be-22-year-old whose next NFL game will be his first. Jones did his best not to go too far in the direction praising an individual, which is smart, because the offense has yet to come together as a group. But he seems to like what he’s seen from Thornton so far.
“I think Ty is a hard worker. He’s starting to really grasp some of the things we’re doing and getting open,” Jones said Tuesday. “He clearly has the speed to get open, and we have a great group of guys and we need to spread the ball out to them. That’s the whole point of this offense is get the ball to different people and not key on one person and spread the wealth and let those guys run after catch.”
Thornton’s gradual emergence could be creating a roster crunch at receiver. DeVante Parker has made an immediate impact and looks like a lock. Thornton’s a lock, regardless of how much he plays. Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Nelson Agholor have all made their share of plays. Is it a sure bet that all five of them make the team out of camp?
If Thornton can show enough to immediately play a top-4 role in the pecking order, that could make for a tough decision for Belichick when final cutdowns arrive. Even if he needs more time than that, it looks like the Patriots have finally drafted a receiver who can play a little bit.
Little bit. Not getting too hyped. But it’s hard not to, considering how long Patriots fans have been waiting for something to break their way at that position. Mercifully, Thornton might be it.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.