Coming off a hard-fought loss in Week 2, the New England Patriots returned to the win column against the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Behind a strong running game and efficient defensive performance, the Patriots were able to defeat the visiting Raiders 36-20 to improve to 2-1 on the year. Along the way, they saw contributions from a considerable portion of their roster in all three phases of the game.
With that being said, let’s take a look at how the Patriots opted to use their players versus Las Vegas.
Total snaps: 69
G Shaq Mason (69; 100%), C Joe Thuney (69; 100%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (69; 100%), G Michael Onwenu (69; 100%), QB Cam Newton (69; 100%), WR Damiere Byrd (66; 96%), OT Isaiah Wynn (59; 86%), WR Julian Edelman (56; 81%), WR N’Keal Harry (46; 67%), TE Ryan Izzo (43; 62%), RB Rex Burkhead (32; 46%), TE Devin Asiasi (29; 42%), RB Sony Michel (26; 38%), FB Jakob Johnson (18; 26%), RB J.J. Taylor (15; 22%), OT Justin Herron (10; 14%), WR Jakobi Meyers (7; 10%), WR Isaiah Zuber (6; 9%), WR Matthew Slater (1; 1%)
With David Andrews being sent to injured reserve because of a fractured right thumb, the Patriots had to shuffle their offensive line. Joe Thuney, for the first time since arriving in New England in 2016, did not start at left guard but instead filled Andrews’ former position. Rookie Michael Onwenu, who had already seen some action at right tackle and jumbo tight end in the first two games of his young career, was moved to Thuney’s old spot. Both men played all 69 offensive snaps and looked good in their new roles.
Onwenu might have been the Patriots rookie most prominently featured on Sunday, but he was not the only one to see increased action. Devin Asiasi played a career-high 29 snaps as Ryan Izzo’s role decrease a bit: the third-year man had played all but two of New England’s 136 offensive snaps through two weeks of regular season action, but was on the field for “only” 43 of 69 versus the Raiders.
Undrafted rookies J.J. Taylor and Isaiah Zuber also were used in a rotational capacity, as was sixth-round pick Justin Herron. Taylor played 15 snaps and touched the football 11 times for 43 yards, while practice squad call-up Zuber played six snaps and finished his NFL debut with a 13-yard carry. Herron, meanwhile, was on the field for 10 snaps in place of Isaiah Wynn. New England’s starting left tackle was limited with a calf injury during the week, and seemingly had to sit out a few snaps because of the issue.
Total snaps: 59
S Devin McCourty (59; 100%), CB Stephon Gilmore (58; 98%), CB J.C. Jackson (51; 86%), CB Jonathan Jones (49; 83%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (47; 80%), CB Jason McCourty (40; 68%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (39; 66%), LB John Simon (37; 63%), DT Lawrence Guy (36; 51%), S Adrian Phillips (35; 59%), LB Chase Winovich (32; 54%), DT Adam Butler (29; 49%), LB Shilique Calhoun (27; 46%), S Kyle Dugger (25; 42%), DT Byron Cowart (24; 41%), S Terrence Brooks (21; 36%), LB Derek Rivers (16; 27%), LB Brandon Copeland (11; 19%), CB Joejuan Williams (9; 15%), DT Nick Thurman (4; 7%)
On the defensive side of the ball, the Patriots’ rookie class also saw some action in the form of second-round draft pick Kyle Dugger. With New England’s other defensive rookies either used exclusively on special teams (Cassh Maluia), inactive (Anfernee Jennings, Myles Bryant), or on injured reserve (Josh Uche), Dugger kept the flag flying: he was on the field for 25 of the team’s 59 defensive snaps as the number three safety in terms of playing time behind Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips.
Speaking of the Patriots’ defensive backfield, their overall personnel usage was rather secondary-heavy. Five of the top-six playing time shares went to either safeties or cornerbacks, with linebacker and defensive signal caller Ja’Whaun Bentley as the lone exception. The five men in question are not that big of a surprise considering that they are all cornerstone members of the team’s defense — something that cannot be said about former second-round draft pick Joejuan Williams, who played only nine snaps.
Near the other end of the spectrum, meanwhile, we find Deatrich Wise Jr. The veteran defensive lineman continues to play a prominent role in his fourth year in the system, and his performance against Las Vegas was further justification of his high snap total the last three games: Wise Jr. did not only register five tackles and half a sack, he also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown.
Total snaps: 31
LB Brandon Copeland (24; 77%), S Cody Davis (24; 77%), WR Matthew Slater (23; 74%), CB Justin Bethel (23; 74%), P Jake Bailey (18; 58%), LB Cassh Maluia (17; 55%), S Kyle Dugger (15; 48%), LB John Simon (14; 45%), CB Jonathan Jones (13; 42%), DT Lawrence Guy (13; 42%), CB Joejuan Williams (12; 39%), RB Rex Burkhead (11; 35%), S Adrian Phillips (11; 35%), S Terrence Brooks (11; 35%), FB Jakob Johnson (10; 32%), LS Joe Cardona (10; 32%), LB Shilique Calhoun (8; 26%), G Shaq Mason (7; 23%), C Joe Thuney (7; 23%), OT Jermaine Eluemunor (7; 23%), G Michael Onwenu (7; 23%), G Hjalte Froholdt (7; 23%), K Nick Folk (7; 23%), S Devin McCourty (6; 19%), DT Byron Cowart (6; 19%), DT Nick Thurman (5; 16%), RB J.J. Taylor (4; 13%), OT Justin Herron (4; 13%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (4; 13%), WR Damiere Byrd (3; 10%), OT Isaiah Wynn (3; 10%), LB Chase Winovich (3; 10%), RB Sony Michel (2; 6%), WR Julian Edelman (1; 3%), WR N’Keal Harry (1; 3%)
New England used a season-high 35 different players in the kicking game on Sunday, with seven of them seeing the field exclusively on special teams: the three specialists — Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona, Nick Folk — as well as Cody Davis, Justin Bethel, Cassh Maluia and Hjalte Froholdt. Maluia, as noted above, is another member of the Patriots’ rookie class who is carving out a regular role for himself: only five players saw more action in the game’s third phase than the sixth-rounder.
Did not play
QB Brian Hoyer, C James Ferentz
With Cam Newton going wire-to-wire as the Patriots’ starting quarterback, and the game’s outcome still open until the fourth quarter, there were again no snaps available for the team’s number two, Brian Hoyer. If New England treats its backup position like it did in years past, and Newton continues to stay healthy, only a handful of snaps will be played this season between the two depth passers on the roster.
James Ferentz, meanwhile, was promoted from the practice squad after David Andrews was sent to injured reserve. With Joe Thuney and Michael Onwenu looking good at center and left guard, respectively, there were no snaps available for the veteran. He brings valuable and experienced depth to the table, but it is clear that Ferentz is little more than an emergency option at this point.
QB Jarrett Stidham, RB James White, CB Myles Bryant, TE Dalton Keene, LB Anfernee Jennings, OT Korey Cunningham
For the first time all season, the Patriots’ inactive list did not include a player dealing with an injury. While James White remains out following the death of his father, the other five inactives were all healthy scratches. While Anfernee Jennings’ role might evolve depending on the opponent, it is clear that the others listed here are depth options only at this point in the season.