Matt Rhule Gushes Over Tyquan Thornton After Patriots-Panthers Practices

'The people in this community are gonna love him'

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August 17

FOXBORO, Mass. — Matt Rhule knows as well as anyone what Tyquan Thornton is capable of on a football field.

The Panthers head coach recruited Thornton to Baylor and coached him for two seasons before joining Carolina in 2020. Rhule was spotted speaking with Thornton and his father, Tyron, after Tuesday’s joint practice with the New England Patriots. (Tyron was wearing an epic shirt, by the way.)

Following Wednesday’s eventual practice, Rhule spoke glowingly about New England’s ultra-fast rookie wideout — who’s enjoyed a strong first training camp.

“I saw Tyquan’s father (Tuesday),” Rhule said. “I remember Tyquan’s family coming on their visit and sitting at our house. I remember going down and trying to convince Tyquan to leave the state of Florida and come play for us at Baylor. …

“Tyquan Thornton is an amazing football player and even better person. Competitive. Like, the people in this community are gonna love him. He’s gonna play when he’s banged up. He’s gonna do whatever he can to help the team. I love him personally, just as a guy, but he’s also a great football player.”

When asked whether Thornton has a “significant capacity for improvement,” Rhule emphatically added: “No doubt. He’s got a huge, huge, huge opportunity because he’ll get bigger and stronger. … Just knowing him, he loves football.”

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After a relatively quiet start to training camp, Thornton has ascended over the last few weeks and continues to look worthy of being a second-round pick.

As for his performance against the Panthers in joint practices, it was a mixed bag for the 22-year-old.

Thornton made a nice diving touchdown in Tuesday’s 1-on-1 period and later caught a roughly 20-yard pass from Patriots quarterback Mac Jones during a competitive 11-on-11 period. He wasn’t able to corral his other two targets, but did make one grab during 7-on-7s.

On Wednesday, Thornton saw most of his action during 7-on-7s. He allowed a potential touchdown to be broken up at the goal line by Panthers cornerback Stanley Thomas-Oliver but caught a pass in the back of the end zone on the next play and added another score later on. Mac Jones was at quarterback on two of those reps.

Thornton didn’t make any highlight-reel plays during 1-on-1s, but he did draw a defensive pass interference penalty.

Obviously, Thornton still has plenty of work to do. He failed to go up for a potential deep touchdown Wednesday, instead trying to let the ball reach him. The same thing happened during last Thursday’s preseason opener against the New York Giants.

In both cases, a defensive back broke up the pass.

Thornton also suffers from occasional miscommunication issues with quarterbacks, though it’s hard to tell who’s at fault. Either way, he still sees a lot of time with the second- and third-team offenses, indicating the Patriots aren’t quite ready to give him a huge role.

Still, this week should be viewed as another positive development for Thornton in a training camp that’s been full of them.

NESN.com’s coverage of New England Patriots preseason is presented by Cross Insurance, protecting your team since 1954.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Canha/USA TODAY Sports Images
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