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Week 17 Patriots vs Dolphins snap counts: Did Bill Belichick help Chris Long earn $250,000?

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And other observations from the snap counts!

Here are the New England Patriots snap counts from their 35-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins.

Do the Patriots consider RG Shaq Mason and RT Marcus Cannon their most important lineman?

LT Nate Solder, LG Joe Thuney and OC David Andrews were the only players to stay on the field for all 67 snaps. Mason and Cannon played 64 snaps (96%), sitting down in favor of OG Ted Karras (3, 4%) and OT Cameron Fleming (7, 10%), respectively, when QB Tom Brady (64, 96%) sat for QB Jimmy Garoppolo (3, 4%). Does this mean the Patriots consider Mason and Cannon more important than any other interior lineman and Solder? It’s possible.

WR Michael Floyd joined the starting line-up

WR Chris Hogan (64, 96%) played almost every snap, as did WR Julian Edelman (60, 90%). TE Martellus Bennett (52, 78%) saw considerable time, too, and it was Floyd (49, 73%) that was the next player on the field. TE Matt Lengel (18, 27%) and WR Matthew Slater (2, 3%) had minor roles, while FB James Develin (17, 25%) saw his role significantly decrease.

The running back rotation is split into thirds...

RB Dion Lewis (27, 40%) led the committee, with RB LeGarrette Blount (22, 33%) and RB James White (21, 31%) a drive’s worth of snaps behind.

...and so is the defensive end rotation

Chris Long (35, 59%) led the snap rotation and it shouldn’t be considered a coincidence. Long had a $250,000 playing time incentive in his contract if he played 65% of the snaps this year. He had cleared the limit prior to the game, but it seems like the coaching staff didn’t want to risk him falling below that incentive.

Trey Flowers (29, 49%), Rob Ninkovich (28, 47%), and Jabaal Sheard (26, 44%) all played pretty much even snaps in this four-man rotation. Geneo Grissom hadded 3 snaps (5%) in garbage time.

Malcom Brown should be out of the dog house

Brown did not open the game on the field and was not considered the starter, but he ultimately re-assumed his top dog role. Brown played 37 snaps (63%), just a little behind Alan Branch (39, 66%), and well ahead of Vincent Valentine (20, 34%), who received the start. Look for Brown to be the starter moving forward.

Dont’a Hightower received some much-needed rest

Hightower led the linebackers with 41 snaps (69%), but was still below his expected 100% snap count. Shea McClellin (29, 49%) and Elandon Roberts (29, 49%) were big pieces in the Patriots defense that expected to stop the Dolphins run game, as Kyle Van Noy had one of his quietest games of the year with 19 snaps (32%). Barkevious Mingo chipped in 8 snaps (14%).

The secondary played nickel- or more- for the whole game

Patrick Chung (59, 100%) and Logan Ryan (59, 100%) played every snap, while Eric Rowe (58, 98%), Devin McCourty (56, 95%), and Malcolm Butler (55, 93%) were close behind. This is your starting five in the secondary. Duron Harmon (15, 25%) and Justin Coleman (4, 7%) played reserve roles.

The following played 15+ snaps on special teams:

Geneo Grissom (20), Nate Ebner (19), Brandon Bolden (17), Brandon King (17), Jonathan Jones (17), Matthew Slater (17), Shea McClellin (17), Barkevious Mingo (16).