The New England Patriots will head into their Week 9 matchup against the Washington Commanders with a noticeably thin wide receiver room, but quarterback Mac Jones doesn't seem too worried.
With Kendrick Bourne ruled out for the season after an ACL tear and DeVante Parker's status up in the air following a helmet-to-helmet hit in the 31-17 Week 8 loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots will have to rely on some of their younger receivers.
If Parker is out Sunday, the Patriots will look to a combination of JuJu Smith-Schuster (who first entered the Dolphins game in the fourth quarter after the injuries), Demario Douglas, Tyquan Thornton, Jalen Reagor, and possibly Kayshon Boutte.
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With Smith-Schuster and Douglas more of a lock to play, logging a combined 56 targets on the year, fans will be left to wonder if Thornton, Reagor or Boutte (a 2023 sixth-round pick) can make an impact against the Commanders.
Patriots quarterback Mac Jones spoke to WEEI's Jones & Mego show on the possibility of the young receivers making an impact.
"I really want them to take advantage of the opportunity," Jones said. "I've seen [Kayshon] Boutte play in college and worked with him early in training camp, and in the first game, and I have a lot of confidence in him."
Boutte has been a healthy scratch since debuting in Week 1 -- when he was unable to keep his feet inbounds on a crucial play late in the game. A once highly touted prospect, Boutte tallied 131 receptions for 1,782 yards and 16 touchdowns in his 27-game college career at LSU. Injury concerns led to his draft stock plummeting, leaving Patriots fans thrilled with his sixth-round selection.
Greg Cosell, senior producer at NFL Films and analyst on ESPN's NFL Matchup, went as far as comparing Boutte to Stefon Diggs. Considered a "boom-or-bust" prospect, Boutte just hasn't had enough time on the field to demonstrate his abilities.
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"Same thing with Tyquan [Thornton]," Jones added. "He's from Florida, I've seen him play in high school, I've seen him play in college, and I've been really impressed with what he's done in the NFL. He just needs an opportunity."
Just like Boutte, Thornton just hasn't had much of an opportunity to show what he can do in a game. Thornton, a second-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, played in 13 games last season, grabbing 22 catches on 45 targets for 247 yards and two touchdowns. So far this season, he has only appeared in two games, catching two of his three targets for eight yards. Considering the draft capital used to select Thornton, it's almost surprising to see him left out of the game plan.
"I know they can take advantage of it," Jones said of the possible opportunity, "I believe in a lot of those guys."
The Patriots stand at 2-6 for the first time since 2000, meaning what they have been doing isn't working. Jones believes in these young receivers, and giving them an opportunity can't make things any worse for New England. Even if Parker is available to play, both he and Smith-Schuster have been rather lackluster so far. Mixing in the young receivers could potentially rejuvenate the struggling offense, which has put up the fourth-fewest points across the league.
"I want to grow with the young players," Jones added. "I want to grow with them and see what we can do to build for the future."
We've already seen what the 30-year-old Parker and 26-year-old Smith-Schuster can do. With playoff contention seemingly out of reach, the Patriots could look to move forward this season with the youth movement, headlined by Douglas (22), Thornton (23), and Boutte (21).