The New England Patriots’ first game of the season is in the books, and even though it was only a preseason contest the team has plenty to feel good about. After all, it was in control from start to finish in all three phases and ultimately ended up beating the Detroit Lions with a score of 31-3. Let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers from the Patriots’ blowout victory to get an impression of how they used their 90-man roster.
Total snaps: 84
OG Hjalte Froholdt (84; 100%), OC James Ferentz (84; 100%), WR Maurice Harris (59; 70%), QB Jarrett Stidham (58; 69%), RB Nick Brossette (48; 57%), TE Ryan Izzo (45; 54%), WR Jakobi Meyers (44; 52%), OT Martez Ivey (42; 50%), OT Cedrick Lang (42; 50%), OG Ted Karras (42; 50%), OT Tyree St. Louis (42; 50%), OC Tyler Gauthier (42; 50%), OT Dan Skipper (42; 50%), WR Braxton Berrios (41; 49%), RB Brandon Bolden (34; 40%), QB Brian Hoyer (26; 31%), FB Jakob Johnson (22; 26%), TE Matt LaCosse (22; 26%), WR Dontrelle Inman (20; 24%), TE Andrew Beck (18; 21%), WR Damoun Patterson (17; 20%), TE Benjamin Watson (15; 18%), WR Phillip Dorsett (12; 14%), WR Gunner Olszewski (10; 12%), WR Ryan Davis (5; 6%), TE Stephen Anderson (3; 4%), WR N’Keal Harry (3; 4%), QB Danny Etling (2; 2%)
With the Patriots dominating the contest through all four quarters, the team’s offense got plenty of opportunities to prove its value. Offensive linemen Hjalte Froholdt and James Ferentz — the former a quasi roster lock given his status as a fourth-round rookie, the latter a bubble player — saw more action than any other player and did not leave the field. The rest of their fellow offensive linemen, meanwhile, changed at halftime.
Dan Skipper, Ted Karras, and Tyree St. Louis left the field at the intermission to be replaced by Martez Ivey, Tyler Gauthier and Cedrick Lang. While a lot can change over the next few practices and preseason games, this gives us an early indication about how the team’s depth chart along the offensive line currently looks like. Froholdt and Karras in particular should feel good about their standing.
What also stands out is the distribution of tight end snaps. With Benjamin Watson seeing only 15 snaps on the day and Matt LaCosse leaving the game with what appeared to be a lower leg/ankle injury in quarter number two, second-year man Ryan Izzo saw considerable action: he played 45 snaps compared to only 18 and 3 by competitors Andrew Beck and Stephen Anderson, respectively.
The wide receiver spot also got an extensive look, with Jakobi Meyers and Braxton Berrios serving as the one-two punch at the position during the first half. First-round rookie N’Keal Harry is also noteworthy considering that he played just three snaps, but still caught two passes for 36 yards before leaving the game with what looked like a minor hamstring issue.
Total snaps: 45
CB Joejuan Williams (43; 96%), CB Duke Dawson Jr. (30; 67%), DE Trent Harris (27; 60%), LB Christian Sam (24; 53%), DE Chase Winovich (24; 53%), DE Derek Rivers (21; 47%), SS Terrence Brooks (21; 47%), CB J.C. Jackson (21; 47%), FS A.J. Howard (20; 44%), SS Obi Melifonwu (18; 40%), SS Malik Gant (17; 38%), CB Keion Crossen (17; 38%), DE Shilique Calhoun (17; 38%), LB Calvin Munson (16; 36%), DT Byron Cowart (16; 36%), LB Terez Hall (15; 33%), DT David Parry (15; 33%), DE Nick Thurman (13; 29%), DE John Simon (13; 29%), DT Adam Butler (13; 29%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (11; 24%), LB Brandon King (11; 24%), SS Duron Harmon (11; 24%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (11; 24%), DE Ufomba Kamalu (10; 22%), LB Elandon Roberts (9; 20%), DT Danny Shelton (8; 18%), DE Keionta Davis (8; 18%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (8; 18%), DT Mike Pennel (5; 11%), CB D’Angelo Ross (2; 4%)
New England’s pair of second-round cornerbacks — Joejuan Williams and Duke Dawson — saw considerable action against the Lions. While Williams hardly left the field, Dawson played two-thirds of snaps. It is clear that the Patriots are giving the two youngsters as many opportunities as possible. In Dawson’s case, he better start making the most out of them or he might get lost on a deep cornerback depth chart.
Up front, the Patriots’ younger players also took center stage: Trent Harris, Chase Winovich and Derek Rivers are all competing for playing time — and in Harris’ and Rivers’ case a roster spot — on the defensive edge, and they all had their moments: Rivers and Winovich both recorded multiple sacks (2.0 and 1.5, respectively), while Harris moved the pocket well albeit against the Lions’ third-string line.
One noteworthy development is the usage of Brandon King. The core special teamer, who has yet to play a defensive snap during a regular season or playoff game — he is entering his fifth year with the team — was on the field for 11 such snaps against Detroit. With King being a lock to make the roster, giving him more preseason playing time on defense is certainly no bad idea.
Total snaps: 26
FB Jakob Johnson (21; 81%), FS A.J. Howard (17; 65%), LB Christian Sam (15; 58%), CB Duke Dawson Jr. (14; 54%), DE Chase Winovich (13; 50%), SS Malik Gant (13; 50%), CB Keion Crossen (12; 46%), LB Calvin Munson (12; 46%), QB Danny Etling (10; 38%), SS Obi Melifonwu (9; 35%), LS Joe Cardona (9; 35%), TE Ryan Izzo (8; 31%), WR Gunner Olszewski (8; 31%), CB Joejuan Williams, (8; 31%), DE Shilique Calhoun (8; 31%), LB Terez Hall (8; 31%), P Ryan Allen (8; 31%), DE Trent Harris (7; 27%), DE Derek Rivers (7; 27%), P Jake Bailey (7; 27%), WR Ryan Davis (6; 23%), SS Terrence Brooks (5; 19%), CB J.C. Jackson (5; 19%), OG Hjalte Froholdt (4; 15%), OC James Ferentz (4; 15%), RB Nick Brossette (4; 15%), OT Martez Ivey (4; 15%), OT Cedrick Lang (4; 15%), OC Ted Karras (4; 15%), WR Braxton Berrios (4; 15%), WR Damoun Patterson (4; 15%), CB D’Angelo Ross (4; 15%), K Stephen Gostkowski (4; 15%), TE Andrew Beck (3; 12%), TE Stephen Anderson (3; 12%), DT Danny Shelton (3; 12%), TE Matt LaCosse (2; 8%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (2; 8%), OT Tyree St. Louis (1; 4%), DE Nick Thurman (1; 4%), DE Keionta Davis (1; 4%)
A large portion of the players listed here will not make the Patriots’ roster because of contributions on offense or defense, but rather due to special teams work. Being able to successfully play in the kicking game is a key for lower-level players and those on the roster bubble. It is therefore no surprise to see the club use forty-one men in the third phase of the game against Detroit.
Of those forty-one men, only four played exclusively in the kicking game: kicker Stephen Gostkowski and long snapper Joe Cardona, as well as punters Ryan Allen and Jake Bailey. Both of the competitors looked good on Thursday, with Allen punting thrice compared to Bailey’s one kick. The challenger, however, kicked off as well and registered three touchbacks and three returns averaging 24.3 yards per runback.
WR Cameron Meredith, WR Julian Edelman, QB Tom Brady, WR Matthew Slater, SS Patrick Chung, CB Stephon Gilmore, RB Sony Michel, RB James White, CB Jason McCourty, CB Jonathan Jones, FS Devin McCourty, RB Rex Burkhead, RB Damien Harris, SS Nate Ebner, FB James Develin, CB Ken Webster, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Dont’a Hightower, OC David Andrews, OT Marcus Cannon, OG Joe Thuney, OT Yodny Cajuste, OG Shaq Mason, OT Isaiah Wynn, DE Michael Bennett, TE Lance Kendricks, WR Demaryius Thomas, DE Lawrence Guy
The inactives list for Thursday’s game is a mix of roster locks and players currently rehabbing from injury. The most interesting name might therefore very well be that of third-round rookie running back and roster lock Damien Harris: he was the only presumably healthy rookie not to see the field against Detroit — despite three other backs also being inactive.