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Patriots vs Chargers rookie review: Josh Uche leads an impressive rookie effort

Related: Patriots vs Chargers snap counts: Blowout win gives New England chance to test roster depth

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

While the New England Patriots are already on to their Thursday night game against the Rams, they can still feel good about their performance three days ago versus the other team from Los Angeles. Not only did the Patriots beat the Chargers 45-0, they also saw some major contributions from their rookie class along the way.

With that being said, let’s review the first-year players’ performances from this weekend.

OT/G Michael Onwenu

  • Offensive snaps: 67 of 67 (100%)
  • Special teams snaps: 7 of 26 (27%)

Despite going against one of the NFL’s best edge defenders in Joey Bosa, sixth-round draft pick Michael Onwenu held his own. Bosa did win his battles, as had to be expected, but he did neither destroy the game as a passer rusher — he registered two quarterback disruptions versus Onwenu — nor as a run defender. The Patriots did make keeping Bosa in check a priority and had him chipped at the line from time to time, but all in all it was still another encouraging performance from New England’s starting right tackle.

Speaking of which, Onwenu also showed some positional versatility during the game. Not only did he play seven special teams snaps on field goal and extra point protection, he also was moved to right guard late in the game with the team deciding to give its more experienced players up front a breather with a short turnaround coming up.

S Kyle Dugger

  • Defensive snaps: 56 of 72 (78%)
  • Special teams snaps: 13 of 26 (50%)

The Patriots’ second-round selection continues to show why his future in New England is a bright one. Kyle Dugger did not only play a de facto starting role for the fourth straight week, he also lined up all over the formation: Dugger played both closer to the box in the “star” role, aligned deep as a free safety, and moved to the slot and perimeter cornerback positions as well. He continues to be a jack of all trades in the secondary, and a player who generally performs well — something he again did versus Los Angeles.

Dugger was targeted four times in the passing game but gave up only one 12-yard reception. Add the fact that he continues to be a core special teams presence as well, and you get a valuable player in two phases of the game.

LB Anfernee Jennings

  • Defensive snaps: 44 of 72 (61%)
  • Special teams snaps: 9 of 26 (35%)

Following a lackluster performance against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, Jennings’ opportunities were limited by the coaching staff and he was turned into more of a role-specific depth player at the off-the-ball linebacker position. Against the Chargers, however, he saw the field quite a bit again and generally looked comfortable while playing the versatile move role both on and off the line of scrimmage.

CB/S Myles Bryant

  • Defensive snaps: 33 of 72 (46%)
  • Special teams snaps: 9 of 26 (35%)

Undrafted rookie free agent Myles Bryant continues his recent progression by playing the most active game of his career against the Chargers. He played 33 of a possible 72 snaps on defense and added nine more in the kicking game. On the defensive side of the ball, he again was used in a versatile fashion by splitting his time between slot cornerback — in place of the injured Jonathan Jones — and deep safety. Bryant did not allow a catch on his lone passing target.

LB Josh Uche

  • Defensive snaps: 36 of 72 (50%)
  • Special teams snaps: 1 of 26 (4%)

Even though his playing time does not stand out compared to other members of the Patriots’ rookie class, Josh Uche still had a big impact on the game. The second-round draft, who was once again employed as a situational pass rusher, finished with three quarterback disruptions — most on the team. The 22-year-old has come along nicely after a slow start this year, and has developed into a nice complementary piece at outside linebacker alongside John Simon and fellow Michigan product Chase Winovich.

OT Justin Herron

  • Offensive snaps: 28 of 67 (42%)
  • Special teams snaps: 7 of 26 (27%)

As was the case during last week’s game versus the Arizona Cardinals, Justin Herron again split time at left tackle with starter Jermaine Eluemunor. The sixth-round draft pick once more looked very serviceable, despite going up against a talented defensive front: a stuffed run in the fourth quarter was his only blemish. While he likely will return to the number four role once Isaiah Wynn returns from injured reserve, Herron’s long-term upside cannot be denied.

LB Rashod Berry

  • Defensive snaps: 22 of 72 (31%)
  • Special teams snaps: 9 of 26 (35%)

For the second time this season, the Patriots decided to use the standard elevation procedure to temporarily move Rashod Berry from the practice squad to the game day roster. As opposed to his Week 6 debut, the undrafted rookie saw plenty of action on both defense and special teams versus the Chargers: he played 22 snaps as an outside linebacker as well as nine more split between both kickoff units and the punt return team.

Berry is now no longer eligible to be promoted for game day only, however, meaning that the Patriots will have to sign him to their 53-man roster in order to have him see the field again this year.

TE Dalton Keene

  • Offensive snaps: 23 of 67 (34%)
  • Special teams snaps: N/A

Dalton Keene’s rookie season so far has been dominated by injury. The third-round selection is back now after having spent the last few weeks on injured reserve, however, and immediately saw some action on Sunday against the Chargers. While he did not make the stat sheet, Keene finished the contest with 23 snaps — most of which coming as an in-line player and after TE1 Ryan Izzo was lost to a neck injury in the third period.

RB J.J. Taylor

  • Inactive

For the second straight week, J.J. Taylor was ruled out because of a quad injury. Even when healthy, though, it appears that his status as a developmental emergency option will not change: even with Rex Burkhead out for the year, he is only the fourth option behind Damien Harris, Sony Michel and James White, and as such the first layer of depth. However, he does not appear to be much more at this point in time.