Tyquan Thornton shows signs he could end Patriots’ early-round WR woes – New England Patriots Blog

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes all around the New England Patriots and the NFL:

1. Thornton’s Fit: Given the latest chapter in the Patriots’ shaky history, with receivers being picked early in the draft — when they sniffed N’Keal Harry at the end of the 2019 first round — Tyquan Thornton’s status for the 2022 second round was a remarkable story through nine training camp drills.

Just as the Patriots picked Harry over Deebo Samuel, AJ Brown and DK Metcalf in 2019, this year they picked Thornton in front of a slew of receivers including George Pickens (Steelers), Alec Pierce (Colts) and Skyy Moore (Chiefs).

There are early signs that a 2019-type scenario will not repeat itself.

“It was exciting to see him grow, honestly, because he came across as a little questionable,” said co-recipient Jakobi Meyers. “Then he started to get real. Really talented. I’m glad he’s with us.”

The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Thornton, who was the fastest receiver at the 2022 NFL combine (4.28 seconds in the 40-yard dash), acknowledged his spring arrival met with some initial turbulence.

“The first week was pretty tough for a lot of us, especially after transitioning from college to the NFL,” he said, adding that he soon settled into a more consistent routine.

Receiving coach Ross Douglas said of Thornton last week: “He’s gotten better every time he’s stepped on the field. He really has many gifts. It’s not just his speed. His ability to change direction, ball skills. He has a good attitude and the guys in the room embraced him. His development will be crucial and we will take him there.”

Thornton’s dependable hands and ability to pursue deep ball has been consistently demonstrated in 1v1 practice. Now comes the challenge of translating that into 11-on-11 drills where he mostly works behind Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne – a foursome that seems to be high on the depth chart.

Thornton, who gets a boost from a small group of fans who support him every day, has also worked as a shooter covering punts – a role that could add value and help earn a spot on the 46-man matchday list consolidate.

“I like where he is mentally,” said Agholor. “He has a growth mentality, trains really hard, takes good notes.”

Cornerback Jalen Mills added, “We all know he’s fast. I think the biggest thing for me is that he just doesn’t run Go routes in every single game. You can see how he trains his short to medium routes as well.”

2. Mac & Judges: When quarterback Mac Jones came to the sidelines last year, he usually stood shoulder-to-shoulder with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Their connection was instrumental in Jones’ successful rookie season. Who that will be in 2022 could get more of a focus in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Giants, and it will likely be quarterbacks coach Joe Judge.

“You can’t fast forward a relationship,” Judge said when asked about Jones. “You have to build on that every day. That comes from building trust, that comes from learning each other and how to work together and what this guy needs to help him be his best. That’s my priority. For me “It’s all about open communication… He’s a smart player. He works very hard. He knows what he likes, he’s willing to tell you. But he’s also willing to try anything if it’s the best for the team. He’s fun to work with.”

3. ‘Join’: How much fuss about the early inconsistency of the offense? That question lingers as there have been more “no chance” games – in which Jones and rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe simply tucked or threw away the football – than the norm for a team coached by Bill Belichick. Part of that seems to be related to the Patriots experimenting with new things. Belichick said late last week that the team was “pushing forward” while adding that it was “miles to go” – which appears to reflect where the offense is in nine drills.

4. Kraft’s candidacy: Belichick announced owner Robert Kraft’s induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio’s show “Movin’ The Chains.” Kraft is a semifinalist, and while there are no set criteria for Hall of Famers, Belichick highlighted three levels that support Kraft’s case.

“He’s a phenomenal owner,” Belichick said. “You look at what he’s done across the board. He’s made great contributions to the league in things like the CBA and other policies and the growth of the league. He’s obviously done a great job here in New England and just keeping the team in New England and not letting it out, and the success he’s had and off the field — just the philanthropy and contributions he’s made to the community.

“You could induct him into the Hall of Fame for any of those. Combine all three together and hopefully we’ll celebrate in Canton next year.”

5. The value of Godchaux: Belichick was eye-opening when he called Von Godchaux “one of the best defensemen in the league” after the Patriots renewed him for two years and $20.8 million. Defensive line coach DeMarcus Covington added context when he explained that Godchaux’s work isn’t easy to spot but is vital on defense: “His ability to stop the run, take down blockers and pocket press to influencing the quarterback is [among] the best in the league.”

6. Jonnus Wende: Tight end Jonnu Smith’s 2021 production didn’t match the four-year, $50 million deal he signed as a free agent, but there are signs things may be changing. “He’s had a great offseason for us,” said Judge. Last year, the Patriots played just 190 of their offensive games (18%) with Smith and close colleague Hunter Henry on the field, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information. This number is expected to increase in 2022.

7. Rookie # is coming: Belichick’s annual tradition of putting rookies in unconventional jersey numbers ends this week with the team’s first preseason game of 2022 as league rules don’t allow for things like Thornton, a receiver wearing the number 51. “It’s going to be really sad,” Thornton said with a smile. “I feel like 51 is a part of me now – this big ol’ jersey and I’m running around. I had fun with it.”

8. Community in action: As Covington answered questions from reporters last week, Arkansas graduate assistant coach Keith Jones looked over his shoulder. It was a snapshot of the Bill Walsh Coaching Fellowship in action; Jones played for Covington at Tennessee-Martin in 2015 and worked as a Fellowship coach at Patriots training camp this summer. “I was always taught that as you climb, you help pull others up,” said Covington.

9. Butler Follow Up: When the Dolphins released former Patriots defensive tackle Adam Butler with a failed physical designation last week, some wondered if it might mean a return to New England for the inside pass-rusher. That’s unlikely in the short term, sources say, as Butler first has to address a persistent shoulder problem from last season. Meanwhile, LaBryan Ray (Alabama) has been attracting attention as a butler-type — an undrafted free agent who charges a roster fee for his pass-rushing skills.

10. Did you know? This year marks the first time since 2004 that the Patriots haven’t ended their preseason with a game against the Giants.

https://www.espn.com/blog/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4825714/tyquan-thornton-shows-signs-he-could-end-patriots-early-round-wr-woes Tyquan Thornton shows signs he could end Patriots’ early-round WR woes – New England Patriots Blog

Emma Bowman

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