Patriots coaches discuss concerns about Tyquan Thornton's development ahead of season

New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns
New England Patriots v Cleveland Browns / Nick Cammett/GettyImages

There has been a lot of emphasis on the Patriots' receivers in the last three years in particular, and the concern was heightened coming into the 2023 season because they could not persuade DeAndre Hopkins to sign there over the Tennessee Titans.

Since it appears they are no longer pursuing other free agent receivers or trading for one, the focus has shifted back to who they already have on the team; Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Tyquan Thornton.

There is a lot of excitement around the newly signed Smith-Schuster, who is presumed to be the team's WR1 and hope regarding Bourne returning to his 2021 self which was the second-best receiver on the team that year. How Bill Belichick feels about DeVante Parker was made clear earlier this summer when he signed a contract extension to keep him tied to New England through the 2025 season.

All of this then brings question marks to Thornton's status.

Despite the debate surrounding what Belichick did to draft him last year, it was apparent the primary reason the head coach was interested in him was for his speed. He ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at the combine, only trailing behind Tyreek Hill in the event's history, and it was a much-needed trait among the receiving corps.

His rookie season wasn't all that memorable, other than a few flashy moments, as he caught 22 receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns. But that's been typical of rookie receivers in New England, so it wasn't all that concerning at the time.

Fast forward to this offseason, and his limited usage in training camp so far has drawn a lot of concern from media members and fans. He has yet to catch a pass from Mac Jones in camp and has only gotten two looks from Bailey Zappe in the summer practices so far, which has caused much controversy throughout New England.

But as those outside of Foxboro stress about the development of the second-year receiver, wide receivers coach Troy Brown expressed the opposite reaction.

"That’s about it (getting back on the field) – I think he needs to keep improving and getting better at his craft. He’s still a young player. He has a lot to learn. I don’t have any problems with Tyquan. He’s a rare breed in this league – a guy that has the kind of speed that he has. My job is to help get the best out of him and use that to his advantage."

Maybe some will perceive this as a coach just speaking highly of a player they coach, and of course, they wouldn't discuss any concerns they may have with the media. But Brown is a former receiver and more importantly, a former Patriot. He's been around Belichick long enough to know how to answer these questions and he provided too much detail to believe it's essentially a cover-up.

Plus, another receivers coach, Ross Douglas, shared nearly the same answer to the calls for concern regarding Thornton.

"Tyquan, he just has to continue to work hard. He has a lot of ability. He has quickness. He has speed. He has a lot of talent. Now, it’s really just refining his tools and his skillset and putting it all together. He’s progressing. He’s working hard. We’ll get there."

As with any young player in the NFL, Thornton may not be at his full potential yet, but he's still learning and adapting to the NFL. Not to mention, he was coached by Matt Patricia last season, who negatively impacted the offense in its entirety. If veteran players were unable to thrive with his coaching, how was a rookie?

Now that he will have a year under his belt and Bill O'Brien to learn from, there's no reason to believe that Thornton was or is a bust. Plus, it's still far too early in training camp to come to absolute conclusions about any player and what their future may look like.

So Thornton may need more time to get up to speed with the new offense they're implementing. What's the problem with that? His coaches are clearly unfazed and not worried about his progress or development, so why should anyone else be?