Tyquan Thornton reveals indicators he may finish Patriots’ early-round WR woes

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Fast-hit ideas and notes across the New England Patriots and NFL:

1. Thornton’s match: Given the latest chapter of the Patriots’ shaky historical past choosing receivers early within the draft — once they whiffed on N’Keal Harry on the finish of the 2019 first spherical — the standing of 2022 second-round choose Tyquan Thornton has been a notable storyline by 9 coaching camp practices.

Simply because the Patriots chosen Harry over Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and DK Metcalf in 2019, they nabbed Thornton this yr earlier than a run of receivers that included George Pickens (Steelers), Alec Pierce (Colts) and Skyy Moore (Chiefs).

There are early indicators {that a} 2019-type state of affairs is not repeating itself.

“It has been thrilling to look at him develop, truthfully, as a result of he got here in slightly questionable,” fellow receiver Jakobi Meyers stated. “Then he began getting actual. Actual gifted. I am joyful he is with us.”

The 6-foot-2, 182-pound Thornton, who was the quickest receiver on the 2022 NFL mix (4.28 seconds within the 40-yard sprint), acknowledged that his arrival within the spring got here with some preliminary turbulence.

“The primary week was sort of troublesome for lots of us, simply coming from having that transition from faculty to the NFL ,” he stated, including that he quickly settled right into a extra constant routine.

In doing so, receivers coach Ross Douglas stated of Thornton final week: “He is gotten higher each single time he is stepped on the sphere. He actually has quite a lot of presents. It is not simply his velocity. His potential to vary path, ball expertise. He has a great perspective and the fellows within the room have embraced him. His growth might be key and we’ll get him there.”

Thornton’s dependable palms and skill to trace the deep ball have persistently proven up in 1-on-1 drills. Now comes the problem of transferring that into 11-on-11 drills, the place he is most frequently working behind Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne — a foursome that seems locked in atop the depth chart.

Thornton, who has been buoyed by a small part of followers supporting him every day, has additionally labored as a gunner overlaying punts — a task that might add worth and assist solidify a spot on the 46-man game-day roster.

“I like the place he’s mentally,” Agholor stated. “He has a development mindset, practices actually exhausting, takes good notes.”

Added cornerback Jalen Mills: “Everyone knows he is quick. I believe the largest factor for me, he is simply not working go routes each single play. You see him working his short-to-intermediate routes as effectively.”

2. Mac & Decide: Final yr, each time quarterback Mac Jones got here to the sideline, he was normally shoulder-to-shoulder with former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Their connection was vital in Jones’ profitable rookie season. Who that might be in 2022 may come into sharper focus throughout Thursday’s preseason opener in opposition to the Giants, and it is more likely to be quarterbacks coach Joe Decide.

“You’ll be able to’t fast-forward a relationship,” Decide stated when requested about Jones. “It’s a must to construct on it daily. That is available in constructing belief, that is available in studying one another and the right way to work with one another, and what that man wants to assist him be at his greatest. That is my precedence. To me, it is all about open communication … He is an clever participant. He is a really exhausting employee. He is aware of what he likes, he is keen to let you know. However he is additionally keen to strive something if it is best for the crew. He is been enjoyable to work with.”

3. ‘Inching alongside’: How huge of a deal to make concerning the early inconsistency of the offense? That query lingers, as there have been extra “no probability” performs — by which Jones and rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe have merely tucked the soccer or thrown it away — than the norm for a Invoice Belichick-coached crew. A part of that appears associated to the Patriots experimenting with new issues. Belichick stated late final week that the crew was “inching alongside” whereas including there are “miles to go” — which appears to replicate the place the offense is thru 9 practices.

4. Kraft’s candidacy: Belichick touted proprietor Robert Kraft’s Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame candidacy in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio’s “Movin’ The Chains” program. Kraft is a semifinalist, and whereas there is not any set standards for Corridor of Famers, Belichick highlighted three layers that bolster Kraft’s case.

“He is an outstanding proprietor,” Belichick stated. “You take a look at what he is executed throughout the board. He is made nice contributions to the league, in issues just like the CBA and different insurance policies, and the expansion of the league. He is clearly executed an incredible job right here in New England, simply retaining the crew in New England and never letting it out of right here, and the success he is had. And off the sphere — simply the philanthropy and contributions he is made to the group.

“You can put him within the Corridor of Fame for any a type of. Mix all three collectively and hopefully we’ll be celebrating in Canton subsequent yr.”

5. Godchaux’s worth: Belichick opened eyes when he referred to Davon Godchaux as “among the finest defensive linemen within the league” after the Patriots signed him to a two-year, $20.8 million extension. Defensive position coach DeMarcus Covington added context in explaining how Godchaux’s work is not simply detectable, however important to the protection: “His potential to cease the run, defeat blockers and push the pocket to have an effect on the quarterback is [among] one of the best within the league.”

6. Jonnu’s turnaround: Tight finish Jonnu Smith’s 2021 manufacturing did not measure as much as the four-year, $50 million contract he had signed as a free agent, however there are indicators that could possibly be altering. “He had a terrific offseason for us,” Decide stated. Final yr, the Patriots ran simply 190 of their offensive performs (18%) with each Smith and fellow tight finish Hunter Henry on the sphere, based on ESPN’s Stats & Data. That quantity ought to enhance in 2022.

7. Rookie #’s coming: Belichick’s annual custom of placing rookies in unconventional jersey numbers ends for 2022 this week with the crew’s first preseason sport, as league guidelines do not permit for issues like Thornton, a receiver, carrying No. 51. “It is going to be actual unhappy,” Thornton stated with a smile. “I really feel like 51 is part of me now — that huge, previous jersey and I am working round. I used to be having enjoyable with it.”

8. Fellowship in motion: As Covington answered questions from reporters final week, Arkansas graduate assistant coach Keith Jones appeared over his shoulder. It was a snapshot of the Invoice Walsh Teaching Fellowship in motion; Jones performed for Covington at Tennessee-Martin in 2015 and has been working at Patriots coaching camp this summer season as a fellowship coach. “I at all times was taught as you proceed to climb, you assist pull others up,” Covington stated.

9. Butler follow-up: When the Dolphins launched former Patriots defensive sort out Adam Butler with a failed bodily designation final week, some puzzled if that might imply a return to New England for the inside pass-rusher. That is unlikely within the short-term, sources say, as Butler should first deal with a lingering shoulder subject from final season. In the meantime, LaBryan Ray (Alabama) has caught the attention as a Butler-type risk — an undrafted free agent making a cost for a roster spot attributable to his pass-rushing expertise.

10. Do you know? This yr marks the primary time since 2004 the Patriots will not conclude their preseason with a sport in opposition to the Giants.