The New England Patriots dropped to 1-3 against the Green Bay Packers, losing in overtime with a final score of 27-24. The Patriots taking Green Bay to extra time was a minor surprise, given that they were a) listed as 9.5-point underdogs heading into the contest and b) had to rely on a rookie quarterback for most of the game.
With that said, let’s quickly go through all of the first-year players currently on the team. As always, we will start with first-round draft pick Cole Strange and move all the way down to the undrafted free agents.
G Cole Strange (1-29): In a way, the contest against Green Bay was business as usual for the Patriots’ first-round draft pick. Not only did he start the contest at left guard and play all 58 offensive snaps, he also delivered an impressive performance. Strange stood out as a run blocker and regularly showed off his outstanding athleticism, while also having arguably his best game as a pass protector yet.
CB Marcus Jones (3-85): It took four games, but Marcus Jones has now fully taken over the Patriots’ kickoff and punt return duties — and not just that: the third-round selection looked very good in both areas. He returned a pair of punts for an average of 24.5 yards and also had a fair catch, and ran back kickoffs for 27.8 yards per attempt. Jones’ opportunities were limited to special teams, though.
CB Jack Jones (4-121): With Jalen Mills missing the game at Lambeau Field due to a hamstring issue, the Patriots trusted Jack Jones to man the starting outside cornerback spot opposite Jonathan Jones. While his lack of size and an on/off tackling technique limited his effectiveness at times, the fourth-rounder did have a very good debut in the starting lineup: playing all but one defensive snaps, he forced and recovered a fumble, and scored an interception return touchdown in the second quarter.
RB Pierre Strong Jr. (4-127): Despite the Patriots carrying only three running backs on their active roster at the moment, Strong Jr. did again not see any offensive snaps on Sunday. His four snaps all came in the kicking game: the South Dakota State product played two snaps each on the kickoff coverage and punt coverage teams.
QB Bailey Zappe (4-137): With Mac Jones out due to an ankle injury, Zappe dressed for the first time all season and opened the game as the backup behind stand-in starter Brian Hoyer. However, Hoyer suffered a concussion on the second New England possession — thrusting the fourth-round rookie into the lineup. Zappe had a solid statistical debut, going 10-for-15 for 99 yards and a touchdown. However, the Patriots went full “protect the QB” mode with their play-calling aimed at helping him as much as possible; Zappe’s inexperience was still on full display on multiple occasions.
DT Sam Roberts (6-200): After being a game-day inactive for each of the Patriots’ first three games of the season, Roberts made his debut on Sunday. He spent virtually all of the game on the bench, but did take the field for the final snap: New England employed him as part of its blocking unit on the Packers’ eventual game-winning field goal try. Why? The five blocked kicks he had during his career at Northwest Missouri State might have something to do with that.
OL Chasen Hines (6-210): For the second week in a row, Hines was part of the Patriots’ game day squad. And for the second straight week, he did not see any in-game action: with starting guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu going wire-to-wire, the LSU product spent the entire game on the bench.
S Brenden Schooler (UDFA): Undrafted free agent Brenden Schooler continues to be a core member of the Patriots’ special teams unit. The Texas product played 23 kicking game snaps against the Packers and was again employed on the punt return, kickoff return, punt coverage and kickoff coverage squads. He registered one tackle.
LB DaMarcus Mitchell (UDFA): Just like Schooler, fellow UDFA DaMarcus Mitchell also was exclusively used in the kicking game on Sunday. He played 18 total snaps between kickoff return and coverage as well as the punt return team. Additionally, he also saw some opportunities on the field goal and extra point blocking squad.
Of course, the Patriots’ rookie class extends beyond those nine players; running back Kevin Harris, offensive lineman Kody Russey, defensive linemen LaBryan Ray and Jeremiah Pharms Jr., and defensive back Brad Hawkins are all on the practice squad. New England did not elevate any of them to the game-day team versus Green Bay, meaning that they all still have three standard elevations available.
Additionally, two rookie players are on the Patriots’ reserve lists. Second-round wide receiver Tyquan Thornton remains on injured reserve but is now eligible to return after his four-game absence. Offensive tackle Andrew Stueber is on the non-football injury list.