The New England Patriots' wide receiver room got a little bit thinner on Friday night. During the team's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, rookie second-round pick Tyquan Thornton appeared to suffer an upper-body injury.
According to multiple reports, the injury was to his collarbone. Per the NFL Network, the rookie will miss around eight weeks, but the fortunate news is that the injury is not believed to be season-ending.
Thornton had been having a promising training camp and preseason, and his absence leaves New England a bit shorthanded in the speed department at wide receiver. Jakobi Meyers. DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, and Kendrick Bourne are likely to get the majority of the snaps out wide while Thornton's collarbone heals.
Thornton and Parker were the team's two wide receiver acquisitions this offseason, with the former expected to bring a vertical speed element to the offense and the latter providing Mac Jones with a possession receiver who can make contested catches. Now, New England will have to turn elsewhere for its field-stretching, perhaps utilizing Agholor more often, or else having tight ends Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith run seam routes to draw coverage deeper and open things up for Meyers and the running backs underneath.
What, exactly, New England's offense will look like this season remains to be seen. Josh McDaniels is no longer around to call plays, and it appears that Matt Patricia is in line to take over that job. There's been much made about the Patriots' transitioning to a Shanahan-style wide-zone-based running game married with play-action concepts, and one of the keys to that type of system is the ability to punish defenses down the field when they bite on the run fakes. Losing Thornton for any significant length of time makes that a bit more difficult.