It was perhaps the best play of Tyquan Thornton's young career as he laid out and made a spectacular catch during team periods in joint practices this summer against the Packers. Unfortunately, it was also a costly play, as Thornton left the Green Bay practice fields across from Lambeau Field with a shoulder injury, eventually landing on Injured Reserve to start the 2023 season.
It marked the second-straight season that the speedy receiver would begin the year on IR, but last week against the Raiders Thornton made his return, as he and the team hope he can help provide a boost to an offense that has struggled to put points on the board.
"It felt good to be back out there with my teammates competing at a high level, fighting week in and week out," Thornton told reporters on Tuesday in the locker room, speaking for the first time following the injury.
"[The injury] was definitely frustrating but that's just a time for me to look in the mirror and see the things I need to get better at, what I can control, getting stronger, getting better at the little things that I can't do physically on the field," said Thornton, adding last year's IR stint helped him stay focused. "I knew what had to be done, staying locked in, staying with my playbook, staying in great shape and now I'm back on the road."
The Patriots drafted Thornton in 2022 in the second round, 50th overall, hoping that the Baylor product could help add a missing element of speed to their attack. After getting a late start to his rookie season, Thornton played in 11 games, logging 22 catches for 247 yards and two touchdown receptions, while also picking up a rushing touchdown.
This season, the team needs that speed even more and Thornton hopes he can help inject a needed boost.
"Definitely feel like my speed will help, but it's just not about me, it's about the whole offense," said Thornton. "I'm anxious to get back out there make the plays that I can make when my number is called, and just being a great teammate for my teammates. That's all."
This weekend, the Patriots will face a formidable challenge from their divisional rivals the Buffalo Bills, who boast a defense that ranks 6th in defensive DVOA and 8th in defensive EPA.
Thornton maintained his belief in Mac Jones and the team's attack, and hoped to use the two second-half touchdown drives against the Raiders as a springboard against one of the best teams in the NFL.
"[We] see what we can do as an offense, it's just about being more consistent because we can know we can do it," said Thornton. "We've got the players to do it, I believe in this team. Definitely hope to see more of that."
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