The New England Patriots defeated the Detroit Lions 30-28 in the third preseason game. The Patriots starters left the field with a 24-7 lead at the half and the game wasn’t as close as that score suggests.
Based on the snap counts from the game, we can get a strong sense of the Patriots depth chart and which players the coaching staff wants to see more from in the final week of the preseason.
TE Rob Gronkowski is back and ready for action
.@RobGronkowski doesn't get nearly enough credit for his blocking but this shove is pure devastation pic.twitter.com/234H3SCo0d— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 26, 2017
Gronk played 33 snaps (50%) and led all the offensive skill players. While Gronk only recorded 9 receiving yards, he also drew 17 additional penalty yards from the Lions defense inside the red zone. He’s back to being a force and defenses have to dedicate all their resources to stopping him.
QB Tom Brady played 37 snaps alongside the starting offensive line, with OT Cameron Fleming also spending some time with the second unit.
Here’s the early offensive depth chart based on snaps
Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman (4 snaps before injury), Brandin Cooks (32 snaps), Chris Hogan (29 snaps), Danny Amendola (15 snaps); Second team: Austin Carr (29 snaps), Cody Hollister (25 snaps), Devin Lucien (19 snaps)
Malcolm Mitchell did not play, but he would be with the first team. K.J. Maye and Tony Washington didn’t play either and they would be at the end of the second team unit.
Running Back: Dion Lewis (15 snaps), Mike Gillislee (13 snaps), James White (12 snaps); Second team: D.J. Foster (29 snaps), Brandon Bolden (1 snap)
Rex Burkhead did not play, but he joins Lewis, Gillislee, and White with the first team. The team will likely roll with the hot hand.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski (33 snaps), Dwayne Allen (14 snaps); Second team: James O’Shaughnessy (30 snaps), Jacob Hollister (11 snaps)
Fullback: James Develin (16 snaps); Second team: Glenn Gronkowski (3 snaps)
Offensive Tackle: Marcus Cannon (37 snaps), Cameron Fleming (45 snaps); Second team: Cole Croston (29 snaps), Conor McDermott (29 snaps), Max Rich (6 snaps)
Nate Solder, Tony Garcia, and LaAdrian Waddle did not play. Some of the second team tackles worked on their versatility at guard, which is why the numbers don’t add up perfectly.
Interior Line: Joe Thuney (37 snaps), Shaq Mason (37 snaps), David Andrews (37 snaps); Second team: Ted Karras (29 snaps), James Ferentz (29 snaps), Jason King (15 snaps)
The Patriots were kind enough to split the offense into obvious first- and second-team units. They did not do the same on defense.
Jordan Richards, Harvey Langi, and David Harris played extra time
The Patriots are trying to find a position for Richards, who led the defense with 43 snaps. He lined up at safety, linebacker, and on the edge when the running back was split wide. Langi (41 snaps) continues to develop as an edge defender and Harris (41 snaps) played with both the starters and some of the back-ups in the third quarter.
FS David Jones (41 snaps) and SS Damarius Travis (39 snaps) also received extended time, but that was partially due to necessity and lack of depth at the position.
The defensive tackles split time evenly
Vincent Valentine (25 snaps), Lawrence Guy (24 snaps), Alan Branch (23 snaps), and Malcom Brown (22 snaps) shared time into the fourth quarter, alongside Adam Butler (23 snaps). These five players will likely continue to rotate into the regular season as Butler should be considered as close to a roster lock as an undrafted rookie can be.
The Patriots were pretty set on the first team edge defender roles with Kyle Van Noy (28 snaps) and Trey Flowers (28 snaps) seeing time.
The cornerback competition is still up for grabs
We know that Stephon Gilmore (17 snaps) and Malcolm Butler (24 snaps) are the starters with Eric Rowe (28 snaps) as the next in line. The next tier of Cyrus Jones (26 snaps), Justin Coleman (26 snaps), and Jonathan Jones (26 snaps) is still unsettled, although they’re definitely ahead of the rookies Kenny Moore (21 snaps) and D.J. Killings (21 snaps).
Look for Jones, Jones, and Coleman to rotate with heavy time early against the Giants in the hopes that someone will separate from the pack.
The following played 15+ special teams snaps:
Harvey Langi (23), Jacob Hollister (23), Brandon Bolden (22), Jordan Richards (22), James O’Shaugnessy (20), Trevor Bates (17), Jonathan Jones (17), Jonathan Freeny (17), Jason Thompson (15)