Tyquan Thornton’s promise not living up to his production for the Patriots



Outside of his decisive two-touchdown game against Cleveland, however, Thornton’s production hasn’t burst.

In the Patriots’ last three games, he caught just three passes on 11 targets for 37 yards. Although it is difficult to assess his performance due to the team’s greater offensive difficulties, the coaching staff should aim to involve Thornton more.

There are plenty of ways to get Thornton’s ball, whether it’s using it on a deep vertical course, out of the slot, or on designed runs. Jakobi Meyers has been the only consistent contributor in the New England wide receiver room this year, so it would seem wise to see if Thornton can play a bigger role.

Thornton made a promise, dating back to training camp. The second half of the regular season presents an opportunity for him to not only help revive the floundering passing offense, but also lay a solid foundation for the future.

2. Speaking of Meyers, the 26-year-old wide receiver is gearing up for a great payday. Once an undrafted rookie at the bottom of the depth chart, Meyers has become a reliable and productive target.

When he was a restricted free agent last offseason, Meyers wasn’t shy about expressing how much he wanted to stay in New England. He ended up signing his second-round bid, a one-year deal with $3.986 million. That salary is a steal, as Meyers leads the team in receptions (40) as well as receiving yards (457) and touchdowns (3).

The Patriots are going to have to pay Meyers a lot more if they want to keep him past 2022. Meyers, who is expected to become an unrestricted free agent, would likely cost between $8 million and $10 million a year. He may be enjoying a discount in his hometown, but who could blame him for chasing money?

Even if his market is closer to $10 million a year, the Patriots shouldn’t hesitate to compensate Meyers accordingly. Nelson Agholor is set to become a free agent, DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne are under contract until 2023, and Thornton’s rookie contract expires at the end of 2025. Paying Meyers and continuing to build around him is a evidence.

3. The Patriots placed punter Jake Bailey on the disabled list on Saturday, which means he will miss at least the team’s next four games.

Sunday will mark the first game Bailey has missed in his three-year NFL career. He was initially listed as questionable due to a back injury. Bailey trained in a limited capacity Wednesday and Thursday before sitting out Friday.

Practice squad punter Michael Palardy will get the nod in place of Bailey. Palardy, 30, joined the team earlier this month.

Bailey’s move to injured reserve is the latest news in a disappointing season for the 2020 All-Pro. The back issue, which first surfaced in the injury report this week, may help explain his poor performance this year, as Bailey ranked bottom of the league in net punt average and suspension time.

The Patriots and Bailey agreed to a four-year, $13.5 million extension in August, so the team is certainly hopeful he can eventually get back to form. Otherwise, his salary cap of $4.05 million in 2022, the second-highest figure of any bettor in the league, won’t age well.

On Friday, the Patriots also placed defensive tackle Christian Barmore on the disabled list. Barmore hasn’t played since Week 6 with a knee injury but suffered a setback as the team didn’t initially place him on the injured list. His absence will be a major loss for New England’s top seven and passing rush.

All things considered, however, the Patriots find themselves in good shape heading into this long run.

Coming out of the bye week, only three players — Parker (knee), linebacker Anfernee Jennings (back) and linebacker Josh Uche (hamstring) — were listed as questionable. And outside of Bailey and Barmore, offensive lineman Marcus Cannon is the only name of consequence on the injured reserve.

4. FiveThirtyEight currently gives the 5-4 Patriots a 40% chance of making the playoffs. With a win over the Jets this weekend, that number jumps to 53%. With a loss, it plunges to 17%.

New England has the third-toughest schedule strength in the league, based on opponents’ combined winning percentage, so the road to the playoffs may look bleak. But the Patriots still preach that they take it one game at a time — and Sunday’s results will certainly loom large.

Nicole Yang can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @nicolecyang.

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