How Tyquan Thornton Looked In Patriots Rookie’s NFL Debut

' I wouldn't expect anything to just happen overnight, but good progress.'


Oct 10, 2022

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots could have waited 21 days before officially activating Tyquan Thornton off injured reserve. They needed just three.

After missing the first four games of his rookie season with a broken collarbone, Thornton returned to practice last Wednesday, was added to the 53-man roster on Saturday and made his NFL debut on Sunday, playing 25 offensive snaps in a 29-0 rout of the Detroit Lions at Gillette Stadium.

Head coach Bill Belichick viewed it as a positive first step for the still-developing wide receiver.

“It was good to have him back out there,” Belichick said Monday in a video conference. “He’s got a long way to go. There’s a lot of things that he learned from (Sunday) that will be better next week in practice and hopefully be better next week in the game. He’s a hard-working kid, he’s smart, he’s got good versatility in the skills that he can do and has.

“But a long way to go. Just try to keep stacking days together here. I wouldn’t expect anything to just happen overnight, but good progress. Good guy to have as a receiver for our passing game. I’m glad we have him.”

Sporting Julian Edelman’s old No. 11, Thornton played six snaps in the first half, then saw his workload increase after halftime once Nelson Agholor left the game with a hamstring injury and the Patriots began managing DeVante Parker’s snap count. The Patriots chose to carry six wide receivers into the game — up from their usual four or five — and played all of them, with Jakobi Meyers leading the way with 48 snaps, followed by Kendrick Bourne (34), Parker (31), Thornton (25), Lil’Jordan Humphrey (14) and Agholor (seven).

It was a quiet statistical outing for Thornton, a training camp standout who suffered his injury in Week 2 of the preseason. The second-round draft pick finished with two catches for 7 yards on three targets from rookie quarterback Bailey Zappe. But he absorbed a couple of hits without incident — including one from defensive end Aiden Hutchinson — and his teammates were happy to see him back on the field.

“That was really special, honestly, just to see him go out there and play fast,” said Meyers, who’d raved about Thornton’s commitment while he was on IR. “See him start off and then the game slow down for him. That’s real special as a vet, honestly. Well, I’m not a true vet yet, but just seeing a younger guy come in and get his chance to play and go out there and show what he can do, I’m really happy for him. It was a special moment for me — and him.”

Thornton will look to take on a more prominent role in the Patriots’ passing game in the coming weeks. He’ll also need to prove his rail-thin, 182-pound frame can hand up to the rigors of an NFL season, with durability standing out as one of his biggest question marks at this early stage of his career.

“I think each practice every day — and of course, he had a lot in preseason — but each practice every day will help him,” Belichick said.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images
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