The New England Patriots’ 2021 season is finally underway, with the team playing its first game on Thursday night. Granted, it was a preseason game that has no impact on the standings, but the 22-13 victory over the visiting Washington Football Team still gave fans and media alike a first extensive look at the team in a truly competitive setting.
How did New England opt to use the talent on its roster against Washington? Let’s take a look at the snap counts to find out.
Total snaps: 59
C James Ferentz (50; 85%), G Alex Redmond (38; 64%), G Marcus Martin (38; 64%), WR N’Keal Harry (36; 61%), OT Justin Herron (35; 59%), QB Mac Jones (33; 56%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (32; 54%), TE Matt LaCosse (32; 54%), G Michael Onwenu (21; 36%), G Shaq Mason (21; 36%), OT Trent Brown (21; 36%), OT Isaiah Wynn (21; 36%), OT Korey Cunningham (18; 31%), FB Jakob Johnson (17; 29%), OT Yodny Cajuste (17; 29%), WR Jakobi Meyers (17; 29%), WR Gunner Olszewski (16; 27%), RB J.J. Taylor (16; 27%), WR Kendrick Bourne (16; 27%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (15; 25%), QB Brian Hoyer (14; 24%), WR Isaiah Zuber (13; 22%), WR Devin Ross (13; 22%), RB Sony Michel (13; 22%), TE Devin Asiasi (12; 20%), TE Jonnu Smith (12; 20%), QB Cam Newton (12; 20%), TE Troy Fumagalli (11; 19%), G William Sherman (9; 15%), RB Damien Harris (8; 14%), RB James White (7; 12%), WR Tre Nixon (5; 8%), TE David Wells (3; 5%), OT R.J. Prince (3; 5%), WR Marvin Hall (1; 2%)
The Patriots started the game against Washington with incumbent Cam Newton under center, and he went on to play the first two series before handing over the reins to rookie Mac Jones. The 15th overall selection of this year’s draft saw the majority of opportunities at the position: Jones led the offense for five drives and a total of 33 snaps. He left the game in the late third quarter, with third-stringer Brian Hoyer taking over for the rest of the game.
Among skill position players, N’Keal Harry’s usage stands out. The former first-round pick and training camp standout was on the field for 36 snaps but he finished with only a single target and reception. For comparison, projected starter-level wideouts Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne played only 17 and 16 snaps, respectively; number one tight end Jonnu Smith left the game after a mere 12. Harry’s usage and productivity will be worth keeping an eye on throughout preseason.
As far as the offensive line is concerned, the starting unit was given 21 snaps: it played two series with Cam Newton, and one with Mac Jones. The only exception was center James Ferentz, who was on the field for most of the game with both David Andrews and Ted Karras inactive. One offensive lineman worth mentioning is Yodny Cajuste, who made his NFL debut after missing the first two seasons of his career due to injury. He played 17 snaps at the right tackle position.
Total snaps: 81
DB Joejuan Williams (63; 78%), DB Myles Bryant (56; 69%), CB Michael Jackson Sr. (55; 68%), LB Harvey Langi (52; 64%), S Malik Gant (52; 64%), DT Nick Thurman (49; 60%), LB Ronnie Perkins (43; 53%), LB Cassh Maluia (40; 49%), DT Montravius Adams (40; 49%), CB Dee Virgin (31; 38%), LB Josh Uche (30; 37%), LB Rashod Berry (29; 36%), DT Bill Murray (29; 36%), DE Tashawn Bower (29; 36%), S Kyle Dugger (28; 35%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (26; 32%), DT Carl Davis (25; 31%), LB Kyle Van Noy (25; 31%), DT Akeem Spence (19; 23%), CB Jalen Mills (18; 22%), DT Lawrence Guy (18; 22%), DE Henry Anderson (17; 21%), S Adrian Phillips (17; 21%), DT Davon Godchaux (17; 21%), CB J.C. Jackson (14; 17%), CB D’Angelo Ross (13; 16%), CB Justin Bethel (12; 15%), LB Dont’a Hightower (12; 15%), LB Matthew Judon (12; 15%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (10; 12%), CB Jonathan Jones (9; 11%)
With Stephon Gilmore still on the physically unable to perform list, the Patriots used J.C. Jackson as their number one outside cornerback. Jalen Mills was the top guy opposite him, with Jonathan Jones in his usual role as the team’s slot corner. All three of them saw only limited snaps early on during the game: Jackson played 12 snaps; Mills played 18; Jones played 9. This usage is reflective of their status as roster locks and starter-level players heading towards the season.
The same status can also be given to linebackers Don’t Hightower and Matthew Judon, who left the game after only 12 snaps. Among the top-three at the cornerback position, Kyle Van Noy saw the most action in his return following his one-year stint in Miami: Van Noy was on the field for 25 total snaps. Another linebackers worth pointing out are Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins: the two young edge defenders saw a heavy workload during the first game of the season, playing 30 and 43 snaps, respectively.
Up front, the Patriots gave their top guys a light workload as well. Deatrich Wise Jr. played a mere 10 snaps, with Davon Godchaux and Lawrence Guy checking in at 17 and 18, respectively. Henry Anderson played deeper into the game than those two, but he also finished with only 17 snaps. Fellow offseason acquisition Montravius Adams, on the other hand, was on the field for 40 snaps — second most along the interior defensive line behind only Nick Thurman’s 49.
Total snaps: 27
CB Dee Virgin (20; 74%), CB Michael Jackson Sr. (17; 63%), P Jake Bailey (16; 59%), TE Troy Fumagalli (13; 48%), LB Ronnie Perkins (13; 48%), Rashod Berry (13; 48%), DB Myles Bryant (11; 41%), LB Harvey Langi (11; 41%), LB Cassh Maluia (11; 41%), S Malik Gant (10; 37%), LS Brian Khoury (10; 37%), TE David Wells (9; 33%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (8; 30%), DB Joejuan Williams (8; 30%), FB Jakob Johnson (7; 26%), WR Gunner Olszewski (7; 26%), DT Bill Murray (7; 26%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (6; 22%), WR Isaiah Zuber (6; 22%), WR Tre Nixon (6; 22%), LB Tashawn Bower (6; 22%), LB Brandon King (6; 22%), G Alex Redmond (5; 19%), G Marcus Martin (5; 19%), OT Korey Cunningham (5; 19%), OT Yodny Cajuste (5; 19%), RB J.J. Taylor (5; 19%), G William Sherman (5; 19%), OT R.J. Prince (5; 19%), S Kyle Dugger (5; 19%), CB Justin Bethel (5; 19%), S Cody Davis (5; 19%), K Quinn Nordin (5; 19%), CB D’Angelo Ross (4; 15%), WR Devin Ross (3; 11%), DE Henry Anderson (3; 11%), WR Marvin Hall (2; 7%), LB Josh Uche (2; 7%), S Adrian Phillips (2; 7%), CB Jonathan Jones (2; 7%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (1; 4%)
The Patriots used 41 different players in the kicking game, with five of them playing exclusively in the game’s third phase: punter/kickoff specialist Jake Bailey (16), long snapper Brian Khoury (10), linebacker Brandon King (6), safety Cody Davis (5) and kicker Quinn Nordin (5). King in particular is worth pointing out, given that the game was his first back after missing almost two full years: the special teams ace had to sit out both the 2019 and 2020 seasons due to injury.
Did not play
K Nick Folk, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Matthew Slater, RB Brandon Bolden, S Adrian Colbert, S Devin McCourty, LS Joe Cardona, LB Anfernee Jennings, C David Andrews, OL Ted Karras, DT Christian Barmore, TE Hunter Henry
The Patriots kept some big names out of Thursday’s game, be it due to their veteran status or injury-related issues. Team captains Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater both fall into the first category, with the rest of the group listed here in the second. Anfernee Jennings’ absence, on the other hand, is curious given that he did not deal with any obvious injury recently.
QB Jarrett Stidham (PUP), CB Stephon Gilmore (PUP), DB Joshuah Bledsoe (NFI), LB Cameron McGrone (NFI), LB Chase Winovich (PUP), LB Terez Hall (PUP), DT Byron Cowart (PUP)
The Patriots did not make any changes to their reserve lists ahead of Thursday’s game, meaning that the list remained at seven players — including starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore. Linebacker Raekwon McMillan and tight end Dalton Keene are not listed here, because their seasons are officially over after they were sent to injured reserve.