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Patriots vs Bills rookie review: Josh Uche has an encouraging debut

Related: Patriots vs Bills snap counts: New England goes defensive back-heavy even without Stephon Gilmore

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots certainly were competitive against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, but ultimately came up short in the end to lose their fourth game in a row. While the end result therefore remains the same as it had been the last few weeks, there was one change as the Patriots’ rookies did not play as big a role in this game as in previous contests.

Furthermore, two were moved on injured reserve: offensive tackle Justin Herron after suffering an ankle injury in Week 7 against the San Francisco 49ers; Devin Asiasi after being a healthy scratch on Sunday and apparently suffering some sort of injury at one point as well.

With that being said, let’s review their performances from this weekend.

OT Michael Onwenu

  • Offensive snaps: 65 of 65 (100%)
  • Special teams snaps: 3 of 24 (12%)

Michael Onwenu continues to be the Patriots’ number one rookie, both in terms of playing time and in terms of consistent performance. Starting at right tackle for the second consecutive week, the sixth-round rookie played another solid game: not only did he play all 65 offensive snaps as well as three more in the kicking game, he also once more performed well as both a run blocker and a pass protector — not giving up a single quarterback pressure along the way.

This is a positive development for both his development and the team: after Onwenu had some ups and downs the last two weeks compared to his high level of play earlier during the season, he bounced back nicely and played at a high level once more.

LB Josh Uche

  • Defensive snaps: 12 of 58 (21%)
  • Special teams snaps: 8 of 24 (33%)

After missing the Patriots’ first six games of the season either as a healthy scratch or later on injured reserve, Josh Uche made his NFL debut on Sunday against the Bills. It was an encouraging one. While he played only 12 snaps on the defensive side of the ball, he showed versatility by playing both on the line as an outside linebacker and as an off-the-ball option following Ja’Whaun Bentley’s injury in the fourth period.

Uche also registered a quarterback hit and an impressive open-field tackle for a third down stop versus scrambling Bills quarterback Josh Allen. On top of it all, he also played eight snaps on special teams while playing on both kickoff and punt return units. All in all, it was a good start for the second-round selection.

LB Cassh Maluia

  • Defensive snaps: N/A
  • Special teams snaps: 13 of 24 (54%)

Cassh Maluia again did not see any playing time on defense. That said, he continues to serve as a valuable contributor on special teams while playing the same role he held for much of the season since getting promoted from the practice squad: Maluia played five snaps each on the kickoff coverage and kickoff return teams, and also added three on New England’s punt return unit.

WR Isaiah Zuber

  • Offensive snaps: 6 of 65 (9%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

After getting elevated from the practice squad for the fourth time this season, Isaiah Zuber played a familiar role. The undrafted rookie free agent was used as a package-specific Z-receiver, who did touch the ball despite his limited playing time: Zuber caught a 13-yard pass on third down. While he did not gain enough yardage to move the sticks, he was involved once again and appears to be ahead of the Patriots’ other practice squad wideouts at this point in time.

CB/S Myles Bryant

  • Defensive snaps: 3 of 58 (5%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

With Stephon Gilmore inactive after hurting his knee during practice leading up to the game, Myles Bryant made the Patriots’ game day roster for the first time in his career. Not just that, though: the undrafted rookie also saw the field, albeit in rather limited fashion. Bryant played three total snaps as a slot cornerback, not popping up on the stat sheet along the way. Still, it was a step in the right direction for Bryant.

LB Anfernee Jennings

  • Defensive snaps: N/A
  • Special teams snaps: 1 of 24 (4%)

After setting new career-highs in playing time but showing some rookie growing pains, the Patriots’ third-round linebacker was a non-factor against the Bills. With rotational linebacker snaps going to Josh Uche rather than him, he took the field for only one snap on the team’s place kicking unit. Given Uche’s solid performance as well as the overall instability of the linebacker position — Ja’Whaun Bentley suffered a groin injury against the Bills, Brandon Copeland will miss the remainder of the season — how Jennings’ role evolves over the next few weeks will be fascinating to watch.

RB J.J. Taylor

  • Offensive snaps: N/A
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

After being inactive three weeks in a row, J.J. Taylor finally made the Patriots’ game day roster again. However, he did not see the field even once. Even with Sony Michel still on injured reserve, the undrafted rookie is unable to carve out a role in New England’s backfield. Despite some promising moments earlier during the season, it seems as if the team is more confident going with Damien Harris, James White and Rex Burkhead and keeping Taylor as a developmental break-glass-in-case-of-emergency back.

S Kyle Dugger

  • Inactive

Kyle Dugger already missed the Patriots’ Week 7 game against the 49ers due to his ankle injury and Week 8 was more of the same. While he was not declared out with the initial wave of deactivations on Friday, he was added to the list the next day after not making the trip to Buffalo with the rest of his teammates. When healthy, Dugger is an important rotational member in New England’s defensive backfield. The key now is therefore to make sure he will get back to full strength again.

TE Devin Asiasi

  • Inactive

The Patriots’ third-round selection was moved to injured reserve on Tuesday, and will therefore miss at least three games. Back on Sunday, however, he was still part of the active roster despite being deactivated for the contest early on Sunday: Asiasi missed the contest for personal reasons, and will now be out until at least Week 12’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.

TE Dalton Keene

  • Inactive

One week after his pro football debut, Dalton Keene again had to watch the game from the sidelines. The third-round draft pick entered the weekend being listed as questionable due to a knee ailment, and while he did make the trip to Western New York failed to pass pre-game testing. The fact that he did travel with his teammates is an encouraging one, however, and encouraging given that the Patriots are now down to only two active tight ends after sending Devin Asiasi to IR.