If Patriots fans were permitted to watch Wednesday’s practice, they would’ve left it with high hopes for Mac Jones and Tyquan Thornton.

A second-round pick in 2022, Thornton battled injuries and inconsistency as a rookie receiver in New England’s offense. Unless there’s a big move on the horizon (DeAndre Hopkins, perhaps?), the Patriots need Thornton to show major progress in Year 2.

And though it’s best to not read too much into organized team activity practices, which are voluntary and feature no live contact, Thornton arguably was the top performer on the field Wednesday afternoon. He was Jones’ top target during team periods, working both outside and inside. Thornton, who was ultra-thin as a rookie, also appeared stronger and thicker.

One of Thornton’s top plays came early in practice while the Patriots were running competitive team drills (not 11-on-11s). He easily beat the coverage from Myles Bryant, burned downfield and hauled in a long pass from Jones.

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Take a look:

It’s worth noting the Patriots weren’t operating at full speed. And, again, players weren’t wearing pads or permitted to engage in live contact. So, fans shouldn’t go crazy over plays like these, as they happen frequently during spring practices; Tre Nixon did them early and often during OTAs last year.

Nevertheless, Thornton looked like an improved player during reporters’ first exposure to the 2023 Patriots.

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Featured image via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images