The Patriots made a series of roster moves ahead of Sunday's tilt against the Lions at Gillette Stadium, including activating an electric rookie who will make his NFL debut this week.
After spending the first four games of the season on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury, second-round pick Tyquan Thornton was activated to the 53-man roster on Saturday. Thornton flashed his 4.28-second speed throughout training camp and challenged corners with explosive route-running.
Although Thornton's speed and separation skills are a potential difference-maker, the Patriots already have a logjam at wide receiver.
With Lil'Jordan Humphrey emerging as a plus-run blocker, 2021 standout Kendrick Bourne has been relegated to the fourth receiver on the depth chart. As Thornton enters the mix, the rookie could challenge for snaps as an "X" receiver on the outside, a spot typically held down by DeVante Parker. With Thornton and Nelson Agholor on the field, the Patriots have two legit field-stretchers to threaten the defense. But it'll be challenging to find playing time for all six wideouts on the active roster.
New England also elevated quarterback Garrett Gilbert and tight end Matt Sokol from the practice squad, making them eligible to play on Sunday. With starting quarterback Mac Jones (ankle) listed as doubtful, Gilbert is the leading candidate to back up rookie Bailey Zappe for his first career start in the NFL.
Following a performance where Zappe held his own in a hostile environment at Lambeau Field, the rookie will likely start against the Lions on Sunday. Zappe finished the game going 10-of-15 for 99 yards and a touchdown, showing solid poise and mostly threw catchable passes when there were open receivers downfield. But struggled while under pressure.
Lastly, Sokol was elevated to the game-day roster because Patriots tight end Jonnu Smith (ankle) is listed as doubtful and likely won't play. Sokol will serve as the second tight end behind Hunter Henry, while the Pats will probably use a sixth offensive lineman often as they did last week.
New England will likely be without their starting quarterback for the second consecutive week but faces a Lions defense that is ranked dead-last in Football Outsiders' DVOA efficiency metric. Detroit is also 32nd in DVOA against the run, and their top-ranked scoring offense is banged up, so a formula exists for a win with a strong rushing attack and solid defense.
The Patriots will host the Lions at Gillette Stadium with kickoff at 1:00 pm ET on Sunday.