The New England Patriots opened their 2019 regular season in style: the team blew out the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers with a final score of 33-3 in a game that was never really close to begin with. Along the way, the world champions’ depth and talent in all three phases was on perfect display — they showed why they should be ranked among the favorites to win the Super Bowl again, given how well the entire roster looked on Sunday night.
With that in mind, let’s dig a little deeper into the snap count numbers from the game to get an impression of how the Patriots used their players.
Total snaps: 70
OG Joe Thuney (70; 100%), OC Ted Karras (70; 100%), OT Isaiah Wynn (70; 100%), QB Tom Brady (70; 100%), OG Shaq Mason (67; 96%), WR Julian Edelman (67; 96%), OT Marcus Cannon (62; 89%), WR Phillip Dorsett II (61; 87%), WR Josh Gordon (47; 67%), TE Ryan Izzo (45; 64%), RB James White (33; 47%), RB Rex Burkhead (32; 46%), FB James Develin (32; 46%), RB Sony Michel (23; 33%), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (8; 11%), WR Jakobi Meyers (8; 11%), OC James Ferentz (3; 4%), RB Brandon Bolden (1; 1%), WR Gunner Olszewski (1; 1%)
Four Patriots players went wire-to-wire against Pittsburgh: quarterback Tom Brady did not leave the field even with the game essentially locked up by the early fourth quarter; offensive linemen Joe Thuney, Ted Karras and Isaiah Wynn also played all 70 offensive snaps. The three blockers all are worth talking about. While Thuney spent time at right tackle after Marcus Cannon’s shoulder injury, Karras and Wynn were reliable in their debut as undisputed starting players along the offensive line.
The Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart also was on full display versus the Steelers: Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett and Josh Gordon all saw considerable action and made the most out of their snaps. Behind the top wideouts — a group that will see the addition of Antonio Brown on Monday — undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski played only rotational roles. Nevertheless, the position depth chart is as deep and talented as any in the NFL.
Speaking of deep positions: the Patriots also used their running backs extensively. James White led the group in snaps, but fellow runners Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel as well as fullback James Develin also saw plenty of action. New England’s group of backs proved to be a challenge to the Steelers’ linebackers in the passing game, while the play-action concepts paid big dividends after a presence on the ground was established.
Total snaps: 69
FS Devin McCourty (68; 99%), CB Jason McCourty (63; 91%), CB Stephon Gilmore (63; 91%), DE Shilique Calhoun (56; 81%), CB Jonathan Jones (55; 80%), SS Patrick Chung (48; 70%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (47; 68%), LB Dont’a Hightower (47; 68%), CB J.C. Jackson (44; 64%), FS Duron Harmon (42; 61%), DE Chase Winovich (40; 58%), DE Michael Bennett (39; 57%), DE John Simon (31; 45%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (26; 38%), DT Lawrence Guy (22; 32%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (20; 29%), DT Adam Butler (17; 25%), FS Terrence Brooks (16; 23%), DT Danny Shelton (15; 22%)
The most surprising entry on the list above is the following: DE Shilique Calhoun (56; 81%). The first-year Patriot, who was signed during the offseason and proved himself to be an intriguing addition on the defensive edge over the course of the summer, led the front seven in playing time despite missing some snaps with what appeared to be a minor injury. It looks like the Patriots have big plans when it comes to the training camp standout.
Other than Calhoun, the defensive snap chart looks like it usually does: the starting secondary rarely left the field, with Jonathan Jones filling the third cornerback role ahead of J.C. Jackson; the linebackers were rotated in and out of the lineup and led by the one-two punch of Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins; the team took advantage of its depth along the defensive line and was able to keep its players fresh.
In short: New England’s defense is expected to be one of the best in the business this year, and Sunday’s dominating performance against the Steelers and the general usage of the players — 19 men saw the field, with nobody playing fewer than 22% of snaps — reflects just how deep it is. The group should be fun to watch moving forward.
Total snaps: 26
SS Nate Ebner (19; 73%), WR Matthew Slater (18; 69%), RB Brandon Bolden (16; 62%), RB Rex Burkhead (15; 58%), DE Shilique Calhoun (15; 58%), LB Jamie Collins Sr. (15; 58%), K Stephen Gostkowski (15; 58%), WR Gunner Olszewski (13; 50%), DE Chase Winovich (13; 50%), FS Terrence Brooks (13; 50%), DT Lawrence Guy (11; 42%), P Jake Bailey (10; 38%), LB Elandon Roberts (10; 38%), LS Joe Cardona (10; 38%), FS Devin McCourty (9; 35%), CB Jonathan Jones (9; 35%), OG Joe Thuney (7; 27%), OC Ted Karras (7; 27%), OG Shaq Mason (7; 27%), OC James Ferentz (7; 27%), DT Danny Shelton (7; 27%), OT Marcus Cannon (6; 23%), DE John Simon (6; 23%), FB James Develin (5; 19%), CB J.C. Jackson (5; 19%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (5; 19%), LB Dont’a Hightower (4; 15%), DT Adam Butler (4; 15%), RB James White (2; 8%), CB Jason McCourty (2; 8%), OG Jermaine Eluemunor (1; 4%)
Six Patriots played exclusively on special teams, with one of them being a surprise: while Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater filled their usual roles in the kicking game alongside the specialists — kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Jake Bailey, long snapper Joe Cardona — Elandon Roberts’ only action came in the third phase on Sunday. The newly voted team captain played eight snaps while not seeing the field as a defender.
Did not play
QB Jarrett Stidham, TE Matt LaCosse
With Tom Brady playing all 70 offensive snaps, backup quarterback Jarrett Stidham was relegated to bench duty: despite a blowout taking place, the starter did not leave the field even for a single snap — business as usual in New England. Matt LaCosse joined Stidham on the list of players that were declared active but did not actually play. The tight end is rehabbing from an ankle injury suffered in preseason, and served as an emergency option on Sunday as the team will continue to play it safe.
LB Kyle Van Noy, CB Joejuan Williams, SS Obi Melifonwu, WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Damien Harris, OL Korey Cunningham, DT Byron Cowart
The biggest name on the list of inactives is Kyle Van Noy, who was not listed on the injury report leading up to the game. The reason for his absence is a positive one, however: his wife went into labor on Sunday. Van Noy was joined on the list of inactives by four other healthy scratches as rookies Joejuan Williams, Damien Harris and Byron Cowart as well as depth offensive lineman Korey Cunningham did not suit up. The other two inactives, meanwhile, were both listed as ‘questionable’ on the final injury report of the week