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Patriots vs Rams rookie review: New England’s first-year players have an up-and-down day

Related: Patriots vs Rams snap counts: Jarrett Stidham not the only youngster to see prominent action

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The New England Patriots played some bad football against the Los Angeles Rams last Thursday, losing 24-3 in a game that was never really close. While it was a forgettable day from the team’s perspective, not all was as bad as the final score might indicate. Take New England’s rookie class, for example, which certainly have its moments even though not every one of its members played a consistent game.

With that being said, let’s review the first-year players’ performances against Los Angeles.

S Kyle Dugger

  • Defensive snaps: 46 of 63 (73%)
  • Special teams snaps: 14 of 24 (58%)

The Patriots’ highest-drafted rookie continues to see considerable playing time each week. The game versus the Rams was no exception: Dugger once again served as a starter in the secondary, while being employed primarily in the box as a strong safety/linebacker hybrid — a role he has played for most of his first year in the system. That said, the Lenoir-Rhyne product also moved around the formation quite a bit to play deep and also align in the slot or no the perimeter.

On top of it all, Dugger also again saw regular playing time in the kicking game. He was used on both punt teams as well as the kickoff coverage unit. All in all, he had a pretty solid game again no matter in which capacity the Patriots decided to use him.

OT Michael Onwenu

  • Offensive snaps: 59 of 59 (100%)
  • Special teams snaps: 1 of 24 (4%)

After being used at both right tackle and right guard versus the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 13, Michael Onwenu stay exclusively on the outside versus the Rams. Like the rest of the Patriots’ offensive line, however, he had some issues against one of the most talented front sevens in the NFL: the sixth-round rookie surrendered three total quarterback pressures, including one sack, and also was a bit inconsistent in the running game. It was not a bad performance per se, but not as stout as some of his previous ones.

TE Dalton Keene

  • Offensive snaps: 31 of 59 (53%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

With Ryan Izzo on injured reserve, Dalton Keene took over the number one tight end role in his place. The third-round draft pick was on the field for 31 of a possible 59 snaps, and aligned both in-line as well as in the slot and out wide. But while more than half of his snaps saw him run a route as a potential passing target, Keene finished the game without any statistics: neither Cam Newton nor Jarrett Stidham targeted him even once.

LB Anfernee Jennings

  • Defensive snaps: 22 of 63 (35%)
  • Special teams snaps: 5 of 24 (21%)

The Patriots gave Anfernee Jennings plenty of opportunity to prove himself in the front seven, but he had a challenging game. The third-round rookie, who was used both on the edge and as an off-the-ball linebacker, set an inconsistent edge versus the run and also missed a tackle. He also did not have much of an impact in the passing game. Jennings’ inconsistent season therefore continued in Los Angeles.

LB Josh Uche

  • Defensive snaps: 16 of 63 (25%)
  • Special teams snaps: 8 of 24 (33%)

Josh Uche continues to be a role player for the Patriots, serving as the number three edge rusher behind Chase Winovich and John Simon. In this role, he played 16 defensive snaps on Thursday night and registered a quarterback hit. Most encouraging, however, might have been his positional usage: New England did not just employ him on the edge, but also gave him a handful of snaps off the line as well — a possible indication that he might be groomed into the move role previously played by Dont’a Hightower.

TE Devin Asiasi

  • Offensive snaps: 23 of 59 (39%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

Coming off a stint on injured reserve, Devin Asiasi was used as the number two tight end alongside Dalton Keene. As opposed to his fellow third-rounder, however, Asiasi did see a pass thrown his way: on a fourth down in the fourth quarter, Jarrett Stidham targeted him. The pass, however, fell incomplete for a turnover on downs. The rest of Asiasi’s game was equally uneventful, even though he did have some solid blocks in the running game — a positive development for an all-around tight end such as him.

CB/S Myles Bryant

  • Defensive snaps: 16 of 63 (25%)
  • Special teams snaps: 2 of 24 (8%)

The Patriots’ biggest play of the day came courtesy of undrafted rookie cornerback Myles Bryant. The Washington product intercepted a pass in the late first quarter, to give his team a prime opportunity to cut into its 10-0 deficit at the time (it didn’t). Generally, Bryant is developing into a nice role player for New England. While his opportunities are limited based on the talent ahead of him on the depth chart, he has looked serviceable no matter the number of snaps played — or the position the team has used him in.

OT Justin Herron

  • Offensive snaps: 7 of 59 (12%)
  • Special teams snaps: 1 of 24 (4%)

After a comparatively heavy rotation at left tackle the last two weeks, the Patriots decided to keep Justin Herron on the bench for most of their game against Los Angeles. The sixth-round rookie did enter the game in place of Jermaine Eluemunor on six occasions, though, while also seeing one snap as a tight end. Herron did not tip the scales in either direction, however. Then again, that is probably a good thing considering that the Patriots surrendered six sacks on the day.

RB J.J. Taylor

  • Inactive

For the third straight week, J.J. Taylor was ruled out because of a quad injury. Even when healthy, though, it appears that his status would not look any different: despite Rex Burkhead being out for the year, he is only the fourth option behind Damien Harris, Sony Michel and James White. While that does make him the first layer of depth, he does not appear to be much more than a developmental emergency option at this point in time.