Even though he was on the field for only 22 of 62 offensive snaps during the New England Patriots’ preseason opener against the New York Giants, Tyquan Thornton made his presence felt.
The second-round draft pick caught two passes for nine yards, with one of those becoming the first score of the Patriots’ season. He also drew an illegal contact penalty at one point.
More important than any numbers, however, was Thornton’s performance. It can best be summed up in one word: encouraging.
Not only did he showcase his trademark speed multiple times, he also displayed some proper quickness. His 2-yard touchdown catch on a throw from Brian Hoyer is an example of that: Thornton was able to gain inside leverage early in his route but reversed course at the top of it to move out along the end line to get open for Hoyer to hit him for the touchdown.
Touchdown, Tyquan Thornton! The rookie WR from Baylor gets the @Patriots on the board.@Humble_Ty19 | #ForeverNE— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2022
: #NYGvsNE on @NFLNetwork
: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/E0QNI4OSYN pic.twitter.com/UaiM7qQcxE
On that play, the 22-year-old also was able to fight through a hold from cornerback Aaron Robinson. Thornton being keeping his position despite the defensive infraction was impressive, especially considering the questions he faced about his size and strength coming out of Baylor: at 6-foot-3, he measured only 181 pounds at the Scouting Combine.
Thornton certainly appeared ready for NFL-level physicality on Thursday, though. He credited to the Patriots’ practice habits as a reason for that.
“My time being here with the Patriots we get physical every day in practice,” he said after the game. “Practice is leading into the game, so that was the result of it.”
The physical edge displayed by Thornton was obvious during his run blocking — something the team values quite a bit. The youngster was up to the task on his few opportunities, at one point driving back safety Darnay Holmes to help J.J. Taylor move the chains on a 2nd-and-1 run.
See, you all thought that the Pats drafted Tyquan Thornton to be their new Deion Branch, when he's actually their new Jakob Johnson. pic.twitter.com/4BeS4pZZzx— Brett Kollmann (@BrettKollmann) August 11, 2022
Whether it was his physicality or his quickness, Thornton showed on Thursday night that he is more than just his 4.2-speed. He mentioned early in training camp that he wanted to “become a full, complete receiver” and it looks like he might be on a good way.
“Just working every day in practice you learn that it’s a game of inches and angles. Just having speed, and footwork, you work every day as a wideout,” he said. “You work on stacking the defender as quickly as possible so you don’t allow the DB to get back into your face.”
While the game against the Giants was ultimately lost 23-21 on a last-second field goal, Thornton can feel good about his preseason debut.
“It was a great experience just to be out there with my teammates. We ground it out during training camp, putting in that blood, sweat, and tears just to see us go out there and compete” he said before adding that the work is far from done. “We’re going to come back tomorrow and put another day together.”