The New England Patriots capped off their tumultuous 2020 season with a 28-14 win over the lowly New York Jets. The victory brought them to a 7-9 record, solidifying their first losing season in 20 years.
The win on Sunday was far from perfect but was encouraging, as it demonstrated some things that the team could possibly build off moving forward. We saw young players contribute, many for the first time. The veterans continued to provide leadership on and off the field, and the coaches put together a solid game plan to set the team up for success.
Despite the negativity that has come with this season, 17 weeks ago we set out to focus on the positives, so that is what we’re going to do. For one final time this season, here are the unsung heroes from the Patriots’ win over the Jets.
S/LB Kyle Dugger
The growth that Kyle Dugger has shown in his rookie year is second to none. He climbed the ladder all the way from 11 snaps (13%) in Week 1 to all 63 in Week 17.
He hasn’t just seen a growth in playing time but in his role as well, on Sunday he lined up at four different positions on the Patriots’ first defensive series:
Kyle Dugger lined up at four different positions on the #Patriots first defensive drive against the Jets.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 4, 2021
- In the box safety.
- Single high safety.
- Free safety.
- Strong side linebacker.
They’ve got themselves a pretty damn versatile player. pic.twitter.com/K0S5SW7T0c
His production has also seen an uptick, as he’s consistently been amongst the team leaders in tackles. As for his coverage, Dugger had the best game of his career on Sunday, not allowing a single catch on his three targets. When it comes to encouraging signs to take away from Sunday, the second-round draft pick is right up there at the top.
He also did this, which is awesome:
I won’t go as far as to say he bench pressed 370lb Mekhi Becton but he got off the block and made the tackle. No small feet for a guy giving up 150lbs. pic.twitter.com/555aMa14AL— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 4, 2021
CB Jonathan Jones
0-for-1 with an interception. That was Sam Darnold’s statline when targeting Jonathan Jones on Sunday.
As is often the case with Jones, people just don’t seem to understand how good he is. He saw the second most targets by any Patriot this season and came down with two interceptions and four pass breakups while allowing a quarterback rating of just 77. Those are better numbers than Pro Bowler Marlon Humphrey, for comparison.
Numbers obviously don’t mean much at corner, it’s all about what assignment you draw and how you can take away offensive weapons, but Jones deserves his due.
OL Michael Onwenu
Michael Onwenu was so good at right tackle, we all forgot that he was playing out of position. On Sunday he was able to finally slide back over to right guard, and in doing so, he looked like a star.
The Patriots ran behind Onwenu 11 times for 109 yards and a touchdown. That’s 9.9 yards per carry for the folks counting at home. Even on plays that the team didn’t hit big on, Onwenu made his presence felt.
Not much to say about this one, Tarell Basham probably feels like he got hit by a Mini Cooper. pic.twitter.com/JdOYqVY2cF— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 4, 2021
He’s not just a bruiser either, Onwenu has proved the world wrong in his rookie season and showed some really impressive footwork and technique. Trusting a rookie to reach a standup 6 tech from the guard spot isn’t something you see everyday.
I think Michael Onwenu was a ballroom dancer in a past life. He puts on a footwork clinic here, keeping his feet even and holding a wide base.— Keagan (@KeaganStiefel) January 4, 2021
He ends up leaning a little bit but we’re not going to nitpick after watching him show all that finesse at 350lbs. pic.twitter.com/4McvxMlKXk
The reason his praises aren’t being sung are because of some struggles in pass protection. He gave up a sack and a quarterback hit after making the switch from tackle to guard, something that could be expected because of the responsibility changes.
Nonetheless, Michael Onwenu was once again really good for the Patriots. As he was all season.