The New England Patriots dropped their season opening contest to the Miami Dolphins by way of a 17-16 final score. Though they out-gained their opponent by 134 yards, they were unable to capitalize on their opportunities in the red zone and watched the win slip through their fingers in the final minutes.
It was our first glimpse at the 2021 roster, who had 12 players make their official Patriots debuts. Let’s find out how New England used those players, and the rest of their squad, on offense, defense and special teams.
Total snaps: 75
QB Mac Jones (75; 100%), T Isaiah Wynn (75; 100%), G Michael Onwenu (75; 100%), C David Andrews (75; 100%), G Shaq Mason (75; 100%), WR Jakobi Meyers (74; 99%), WR Nelson Agholor (64; 85%), TE Jonnu Smith (55; 73%), TE Hunter Henry (54; 72%), T Justin Herron (46; 61%), RB Damien Harris (40; 53%), WR Kendrick Bourne (33; 44%), RB James White (28; 37%), T Yasir Durant (23; 31%), WR Gunner Olszewski (11; 15%), FB Jakob Johnson (8; 11%), T Trent Brown (7; 9%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (5; 7%), RB Brandon Bolden (2; 3%)
Mac Jones got his first NFL start and went wire-to-wire for the Patriots, captaining the offense on every snap. His offensive line underwent a shakeup following a Trent Brown injury that forced both Justin Herron and Yasir Durant into the game at right tackle at different points throughout the game. The other four lineman went the distance with Jones as Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, and Shaq Mason all played 75 snaps.
Though Rhamondre Stevenson’s early fumble likely influenced his usage the rest of the way, the running back group looked to be following a pecking order that many would have expected going into the game. Damien Harris was the workhorse, James White was the top passing down back, and Stevenson and Brandon Bolden came on in a limited capacity; filling in for Harris on rare occasion.
The pass catchers looked pretty much how many thought it would. Jakobi Meyers was the clear number one wide receiver, with Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Gunner Olszewski rotating onto the field around him. Jonnu Smith held a small advantage (1) over Hunter Henry at tight end, where the two men shared the field on a number of occasions. This led to a slow night from Jakob Johnson who only saw 11% of the offensive snaps.
Total snaps: 54
S Devin McCourty (54; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson (54; 100%), S Kyle Dugger (50; 93%), LB Matt Judon (48; 89%), LB Dont’a Hightower (42; 78%), DB Jalen Mills (41; 76%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (39; 72%), NT Davon Godchaux (36; 67%), LB Kyle Van Non (35; 65%), S Adrian Phillips (33; 61%), DT Lawrence Guy (29; 54%), CB Jonathan Jones (26; 48%), DT Christian Barmore (26; 48%), DL Deatrich Wise Jr. (25; 46%), LB Josh Uche (15; 28%), CB Joejuan Williams (13; 24%), DT Carl Davis (13; 24%), LB Chase Winovich (12; 22%), DL Henry Anderson 3; 6%)
In what has become a theme in recent seasons, the Patriots used a heavy rotation in the front seven throughout this game. Matt Judon, Davon Godchaux, and Dont’a Hightower were consistently on the field Sunday, but their supporting cast rotated depending on situation. Notably; Lawrence Guy and Carl Davis seemed to be one-for-one swaps for each other, while Josh Uche, Kyle Van Noy, and Ja’Whaun Bentley rotated in and out of the game depending on situation.
The secondary looked very similar throughout this game as Devin McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Kyle Dugger, and Jalen Mills all played 75% of the snaps or higher. Jonathan Jones and Adrian Phillips were the ‘nickel’ and ‘big nickel’ defensive backs while Joejuan Williams replaced Mills on a few snaps in the middle of the game.
Total snaps: 20
ST Matthew Slater (17; 81%), ST Brandon King (17; 81%), ST Justin Bethel (16; 76%), ST Cody Davis (16; 76%), RB Brandon Bolden (13; 62%), WR Gunner Olszewski (12; 57%), CB Jonathan Jones (12; 57%), P Jake Bailey (11; 52%), LB Chase Winovich (11; 52%), LB Harvey Langi (9; 43%), DT Lawrence Guy (8; 38%), DL Henry Anderson (7; 33%), S Adrian Phillips (7; 33%), LB Matt Judon (7; 33%), CB Joejuan Williams (6; 29%), LS Joe Cardona (6; 29%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley (5; 24%), S Kyle Dugger (5; 24%), K Nick Folk (4; 19%), C Ted Karras (4; 19%), T Isaiah Wynn (4; 19%), G Michael Onwenu (4; 19%), G Shaq Mason (4; 19%), T Justin Herron (4; 19%), T Yasir Durant (4; 19%), FB Jakob Johnson (4; 19%), LB Dont’a Hightower (4; 19%), DT Davon Gochaux (4; 19%), LB Josh Uche (3; 14%), S Devin McCourty (1; 5%), LB Kyle Van Noy (1; 5%), WR Kendrick Bourne (1; 5%)
As per usual the Patriot used a mix of offensive and defensive starters with their core special teamers, making for a 32-man special teams unit that close to the largest in the NFL. Matthew Slater led the way with 17/20 snaps.
Did not play
QB Brian Hoyer
No surprises here, as the Patriots always make the most of their roster. They found spots for everyone but the backup quarterback to see the field. 2021 is now the 13th straight season that Brian Hoyer has been active for a game, but not played.
LB Ronnie Perkins, RB J.J. Taylor, TE Devin Asiasi, OT Yodny Cajuste, CB Shaun Wade, K Quinn Nordin
The Patriots placed RB/WR Malcolm Perry on injured reserve on Friday, leaving them with a 52-man roster headed into the game on Sunday. Leaving eight offensive lineman active for the game afforded them two extra roster spots for practice squad elevations. This means, instead of having the requisite eight players inactive, the Patriots only needed six. They had the pick of the litter from their healthy roster, and exclusively sat players with less than 10 games of experience.