The New England Patriots had another solid performance during their victory over the visiting Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night. While the team showed some inconsistencies, it again saw contributions by every layer of its depth chart. Let’s take a closer look at the snap count numbers from the Patriots’ 38-24 win:
Julian Edelman had an eventful return...
After missing the Patriots’ last 23 games due to injury and suspension, Julian Edelman returned to the field on Thursday and had a busy night: the veteran, who finished the game with seven catches for 57 yards, was on the field for 70% of New England’s offensive snaps (48 of 69). With Edelman back in the lineup, the Patriots’ wide receiver group is finally starting to take shape. The 32-year old will serve as one of the top options at the position with Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, and Josh Gordon also regular members of the rotation.
...while Cordarrelle Patterson was used as a role player
Meanwhile, offseason acquisition Cordarrelle Patterson appears to have been given a more specialized role within the offense: New England is trying to take advantage his speed and vision as a runner in the screen game and on misdirection plays. On Thursday, Patterson was therefore on the field for just eight snaps (of 69; 12%) but finished with two receptions for 11 yards and a touchdown. He will likely be a package-based option moving forward, and not the 40% wide receiver he was prior to Edelman’s return.
The defensive tackle rotation is in full effect
New England is deep along its defensive line and the interior spots are a perfect reflection of that. Against the Colts, the Patriots rotated its four top tackles on a regular basis with none of them playing more than half of the defense’s 83 snaps: Lawrence Guy led the group (40; 48%), with Adam Butler (37; 45%), Danny Shelton (35; 42%), and Malcom Brown (22; 27%) also seeing considerable playing time. Brown’s likely would have been higher if not for a second-quarter injury.
Kyle Van Noy continues to be the Patriots’ number one linebacker
While Dont’a Hightower is the defense’s on-field signal caller and one of its leaders, he currently is not the number one linebacker in terms of playing time: Kyle Van Noy is. Hightower was on the field for 67% of the team’s defensive snaps (56 of 83) against Indianapolis, while Van Noy played 88% (73 of 83). The duo will continue serving as the one-two punch at the position, with Elandon Roberts the first player off the bench (41; 49%).
The rookie cornerbacks saw limited action
One week after J.C. Jackson recorded his first career interception, the undrafted rookie was on the field for just five defensive snaps verus the Colts. Seventh-round draft pick Keion Crossen also saw only limited playing time as New England opted to extensively use its top three at the position – Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones – against a usually potent but injury-decimated Indianapolis offense.
Seven players were on the field for 100% of the snaps
On offense, six players did not leave the field on Thursday: the five starters along the offensive line went wire-to-wire, as did quarterback Tom Brady. On defense, meanwhile, safety Devin McCourty was the lone player not to be given a break. Despite forcing and recovering a fumble, the team captain had a poor performance against the Colts – and needs to bounce back on Sunday versus the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs.