The NFL is the world’s best professional gridiron football league, but it takes time for its best players to become Hall of Fame heroes. No one who made it into Canton was a finished product when they started playing football because it often took years of playing at the top level to become truly transcendent in the sport. Tom Brady learned a lot in his first year, and Rob Gronkowski took off after his first game.
Even though young players do need time to grow, there comes a time when they are expected to speed up their growth and make real progress on the field. In his first season as a quarterback for the New England Patriots, Mac Jones beat out Cam Newton for the starting job. However, in his second season, which wasn’t very good, reporters talked about the chance of Bailey Zappe taking over. Other stars on offense and defense who are still on their rookie contracts must make big steps forward in 2023 to get big contracts after that.
The Patriots have found a lot of good ability in the last few drafts, but for the next three players, they’ll need to improve their game and get the most out of them in 2023.
3. Tyquan Thornton, WR
Tyquan Thornton was a big part of New England’s game plan in 2022, but he wasn’t as big a part as he should have been given his numbers. Thornton’s speed and agility excited people in New England when they saw him in camp last year, but his numbers weren’t as good during his first season.
Thornton started nine of the 13 games he played in. He caught 22 of the 45 passes thrown to him for 247 yards and two scores. Thornton averages a good 11.2 yards per catch, but his low catch rate of 48.9 percent gives him a chance to improve in the coming season.
Bill O’Brien was in charge of the Patriots’ offense in 2011. He then took over the offenses of the Houston Texans and the Alabama Crimson Tide. O’Brien was able to show off the skills of deep-threat targets like DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller V, and Jameson Williams. Even though O’Brien likes two-tight end sets, he should be able to come up with a game plan that makes better use of Thornton.
So far, Thornton has done well at camp this summer under O’Brien’s guidance, and Thornton’s former coach at Baylor says that Thornton is “pumped up” about having a coordinator who will “put him in positions to succeed.”
2. Christian Barmore, DL
Tyquan Thornton isn’t the only second-round pick from the past few years who is expected to make a big jump in 2023. Christian Barmore was taken with the 38th overall pick in the 2021 draft. He is a defensive tackle, and while he hasn’t lived up to high draft hopes yet, there are good reasons for that.
In his first season, Barmore played in all 17 games and started two of them. He had 46 total stops, three tackles for loss, nine quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks, and two passes defended over the course of the year. After his rookie year in 2022, Barmore played in 10 games and started three of them. He had a total of 23 stops, two tackles for loss, seven quarterback hits, 2.5 sacks, and one pass defensed. Barmore had a more exciting season when he did play, but he missed seven games due to knee pain.
Mike Reiss of ESPN said that Barmore’s injury was a big reason why he didn’t go from being a bright rookie to a rising star as expected. Still, Barmore worked hard at summer workouts in Gilette Stadium in early February. This shows how much he wants to have a good season in Year 3.
Reiss said that Richard Seymour, a Patriots legend who was good at figuring out the skills of players, had said some wise things. “He has all the tools: big, strong, and explosive,” Seymour said. “He’s also good at adapting to different situations. Quick off the snap and hard to catch when running the ball. Plays very hard and with a lot of toughness. If he keeps going in this direction, he could be a top defensive player for many years.
Barmore is well on his way, and all bets with, bet on nfl games online, to follow Matt Judon and Marcus Jones as possible Pro Bowl or All-Pro stars unless he gets hurt or something else goes wrong.
1. Mac Jones, QB
While Thornton and Barmore are moving in the right direction, Mac Jones, the quarterback for the Patriots, had an unsettling 2022 season that made experts question his success as a rookie. Jones’s regression is mostly due to playing quarterback under both Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. So far in the Patriots minicamp, Jones’s growth seems to be back on track.
Jones and newly acquired tight end Mike Gesicki are starting to work well together. If O’Brien’s 2011 offense is any sign, this could be the key to the Patriots’ offense in 2023. Still, he’s still ranked at No. 24 out of all 32 NFL quarterbacks. This is a shockingly low ranking for Jones, who was a Pro Bowler, made the PFWA All-Rookie team, and led his 10-7 team to the playoffs in 2021.
No one in New England is happy with the team’s 8-9 loss record from last season, but that can’t be blamed on Jones’ lack of skill. He’s a young quarterback who didn’t do well in a system that didn’t help him succeed, but he has all the right skills to become New England’s future star quarterback. If not, Bill Belichick would give up, as he has done many times over the past few decades.
Jones’s growth is important for the Patriots’ progress right now and for Jones’s future in the NFL. Jones should be able to prove that he’s worth the money this year by showing the kind of growth that every great QB has.