Marcus Jones is in his first training camp with the Patriots and trying to earn time in the defensive backfield. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Shortly after this third-ever training camp practice, Patriots cornerback Marcus Jones wasted no time identifying the biggest difference between college and the NFL.

It’s faster. A lot faster. And you better keep up.

“That’s the main thing,” Jones said, “And as things can happen fast, just making sure you stay on top of everything and get in the film room.”

Lucky for Jones, he’s teammates with Tyquan Thornton.

Thornton, a second-round rookie out of Baylor, timed as the fastest wide receiver prospect at the NFL combine last March with a 4.28 in the 40-yard dash. He and Jones have seen plenty of each other thus far in camp, where both are quickly finding their footing. Thornton led the Patriots with four catches in Thursday’s practice and nabbed another during Friday’s team drills.

“It’s pretty obvious that I’m fast, now I’m just trying to fill in all the other areas. … strength, route running, contested catches,’” Thornton said Friday. “Trying to become a full complete receiver.”


Tyquan Thornton was timed as the fastest wide receiver prospect at the NFL Combined and hopes to use that speed to earn time with the Patriots. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Unlike Jones, Thornton faces a steep depth-chart climb, with established veterans DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor ahead of him. He and Agholor have regularly repped with the second-team offense so far in training camp, while the top three run with the starters.

As for Jones, he took over nickelback duties for the starting defense Friday. He didn’t allow a single catch in man coverage during 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 periods. He did drop a punt, but atoned with a penalty lap and later acknowledged those mistakes are inevitable – at least early in camp.

Later, with the entire team watching at the end of practice, Jones fielded punts in a 1-on-1 competition between himself and Tre Nixon, where they held footballs while trying to catch another. Jones won by holding five footballs on his person – four were tucked inside his jersey – as he caught a sixth, and the defense went wild.

The former All-American returner looks at home in early training camp competition, same as first-round rookie offensive lineman Cole Strange, who has started at left guard from Day 1 of OTAs.

“I feel pretty good honestly,” Strange said Thursday. “I think it’s just a matter of – and I’d say it’s probably the same for anybody else coming in – just making sure you’re familiar with your assignments and not having paralysis by analysis. When you know your play and you don’t think about it, you just got.”

Patriots linebacker coach Jerod Mayo has the respect of Mack Wilson, in his first season with New England, because of Mayo’s success during his playing career. Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

WHEN JERED MAYO talks, New England’s linebackers listen.


Mack Wilson Sr., acquired in March from the Browns in exchange for Chase Winovich, says it’s been great working with Mayo, the team’s linebackers coach, also the 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year and a Super Bowl champion.

“Coach Mayo, to me, he’s a legend in my eyes. When he talks, I listen,” Wilson said. “I pay attention to everything he (does), everything he talks about in the meeting room, obviously, with the career he had here … it’s fun just having a coach who really played the game, who put the blood, sweat and tears into the same organization, and now he’s our coach, giving us back tools, advice, gems, and even coaching us at the end of the day.

“It’s a blessing. I’m happy to be a part of this organization, and most importantly, that linebacker room.”

While Wilson at first didn’t truly know or understand how good of a player Mayo was when he roamed the middle of the defense during his eight seasons with the Patriots, he made sure to do some homework before meeting his new position coach.

“Once I got traded here, and found out he was going to be my coach, I did my research,” said Wilson. “And, the research speaks for itself.”

THE LAST NAME Bledsoe has a lot of ties in the Patriots organization, but second-year safety Joshuah Bledsoe has no connection to former quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Instead, he is just focusing on making a name for himself after sitting out last season with injuries.


“Just feels good to be out there on the field with my teammates,” Bledsoe said. “Obviously, you make plays that just build the confidence. Now, I’m just trying to take it play by play and just give my all each play.”

Drew Bledsoe played with the Patriots for the majority of his career and won Super Bowl ring with the Patriots after losing his starting job to Tom Brady. Across his 14-year career, Drew was elected to the Pro Bowl four times (1994, 1996, 1997, 2002).

“I’m not too familiar with him,” Joshuah Bledsoe said. “I know he played quarterback here. I know he was a good quarterback here. That’s all I know.”

Joshuah Bledsoe was selected by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. After signing a four-year rookie contract, he was placed on the active/non-football injury list at the start of training camp. He continued to sit out after starting the season on the reserve list, but was activated in December. Soon after, he was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season due to a calf injury.

This year, he wants to prove himself and earn a spot on the field.

STEPHEN NEAL played for the New England Patriots from 2001 to 2010. He started his pro career as a defensive lineman, but quickly switched to offensive line, where he remained for almost a decade.


Bill Murray hopes he can do the same thing.

Murray, an undrafted free agent out of William & Mary, spent the first two years of his career on the defensive line with the Patriots, mostly on the practice squad, but has made the switch to guard coming into training camp.

“I’m excited,” Murray said. “It’s an opportunity. All I can be is grateful for this opportunity, take it with stride and get better every day.”

Murray says he has been working with offensive line coaches Matt Patricia and Billy Yates on interior lineman fundamentals. Murray rotated in at guard with the second team offense during Saturday’s 11-on-11 period. The last time Murray played offensive line full-time was when he was a tackle in high school.

“It’s a whole new position. It’s very tough,” Murray said. “My teammates and coaches have been very helpful. Every day I try my best to get better.”

Murray was an FCS All-American and two-time All-CAA second-team selection on the defensive line for William & Mary. He says the biggest thing that has translated to the offensive side of the ball is general “football toughness.”

“What we preach here is to be smart, tough and dependable,” Murray said. “That is what I try to do every day.”

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