Despite suffering a collarbone injury that forced him to start the season on injured reserve, Patriots rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton continued to work hard behind the scenes.
“Did a really good job while he was injured, of stying engaged like he was playing in the game,” Patriots offensive assistant/quarterbacks coach Joe Judge said on Tuesday. “I think when guys do that - and we always make a pressing point for our guys to do that — when they do return, it helps them get jumping right back in the flow as fast as possible.”
Jumping right back into the flow is what Thornton did, as he made an immediate impact in his second career NFL game against Cleveland on Sunday. Not only did Thornton score his first two career touchdowns, but his blazing speed significantly impacted the Browns’ defense in Week 6 — helping pave the way for Hunter Henry’s third quarter touchdown in one instance.
“For a tall linear-built guy, he’s got a lot more looseness than you would think,” Judge said. “And that’s something that showed up quick in training camp and he’s definitely got some savvy to him. He’s got a lot of natural ability of just having a feel for where a defender is. Obviously he’s got top end speed, that’s no secret everyone knew about that coming out.”
As Judge explained, Thornton’s 4.28 speed was his biggest calling card entering the league. But, Thornton’s route-running and shiftiness in tight areas have impressed since his arrival. Those skills were on display during his first career touchdown, as he quickly lost his defender at the line of scrimmage.
.@Humble_Ty19's first NFL touchdown!— New England Patriots (@Patriots) October 16, 2022
: #NEvsCLE on @NFLonCBS pic.twitter.com/2ftKMF2tGu
“The thing that really jumped out at us in training camp was seeing him in short space and how well he moves in and out of cuts and how elusive he is right there. He does a good job of finding open spaces and running with the ball when he gets an opportunity for it,” Judge told reporters via Zoom on Tuesday.
In total, Thornton hauled in four passes for 37 yards and the score. He added three carries, taking one jet sweep for a 19-yard score. With performances like such, Thornton’s role should continue to increase in New England’s offense, and his rookie counterpart at quarterback believes he’s only just scratching the surface.
“[Sunday] I think was only a tiny bit of what he can do,” Bailey Zappe said on WEEI Monday. “He’s a dynamic receiver, no doubt. He’s fast, he runs great routes, he catches the ball very well. He fits right in with our great receiver group.”