The New England Patriots returned to the win column in Week 8 against the New York Jets, beating their division rivals with a score of 22-17. Just like their first seven contests of the year, this one again saw prominent contributions from the New England rookie class.
Let’s quickly go through all of the first-year players currently on the team to find out how they looked against the Jets. 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): The Patriots’ first-round draft pick has played a lot of quality football so far this season, but his game against the Jets was rough. Going against ultra-talented Quinnen Williams and with a backup center next to him, Strange struggled mightily. Not only did he give up a sack and two additional hurries, he also was penalized twice and eventually part-time benched for Isaiah Wynn.
WR Tyquan Thornton (2-50): Serving as the Patriots’ WR2 after the injury suffered by DeVante Parker on the first offensive snap of the day, Thornton aligned primarily split out wide. The speedster had a quiet day: he saw two passes thrown his way, registering one 13-yard catch in the early third quarter. In total, he ended the day with 61 of 78 offensive snaps.
CB Marcus Jones (3-85): Jones continues to see only minimal action on defense, playing just six of a possible 59 snaps on that side of the ball. He was, however, actively involved in the return game again. The Houston product had a 32-yard punt return in the third quarter, setting up a Patriots field goal.
CB Jack Jones (4-121): With Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills both starting, Jones’ role remained unchanged: he was the number three cornerback option on the outside. He gave up two receptions on two targets for a combined 33 yards and also had five tackles. Additionally, the fourth-rounder provided a strong edge rush on a missed Jets field goal try.
RB Pierre Strong Jr. (4-127): Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris were hoarding the running back snaps on Sunday, which meant that Strong Jr. only saw opportunities on special teams. He played on the kickoff coverage unit and both return teams, drawing a challenging assignment: the youngster went against Justin Hardee, one of the best gunners in football.
QB Bailey Zappe (4-137): The Bailey Zappe era is officially over. With Mac Jones staring and going wire-to-wire for the first time since Week 3, the fourth-round rookie spent the entire game on the sidelines. Unless the injury bug bites again it seems unlikely Zappe will see the field again anytime soon.
RB Kevin Harris (6-183): With Rhamondre Stevenson, Damien Harris and Pierre Strong Jr. as the top three at the running back position, the Patriots decided against activating Harris for a second straight week. The sixth-round pick was a healthy scratch.
DT Sam Roberts (6-200): Despite Christian Barmore being out another week due to a knee issue, the Patriots decided to deactivate Roberts for the game against the Jets. He was a healthy scratch alongside Kevin Harris.
S Brenden Schooler (UDFA): Schooler continues to develop into one of the best special teamers on the Patriots roster. Against New York, he was on the field for 21 snaps — tied for second most behind only Matthew Slater — while seeing action on five different units: punt and kickoff return, punt and kickoff coverage, and field goal/extra point blocking. He also registered one of the team’s two tackles in the game’s third phase.
LB DaMarcus Mitchell (UDFA): Mitchell also played 21 kicking game snaps on Sunday. He continued to see action on both return teams plus the kickoff coverage and field goal/extra point blocking teams. Just like last week, he also played on the punt coverage unit and almost made a big play. However, Mitchell was carried into the end zone by his momentum while fielding a Jake Bailey punt close to the goal line. The play might have incorrectly been ruled a touchback, though.
WR Raleigh Webb (UDFA): Webb’s second game since joining the Patriots active roster from the Baltimore practice squad was more of the same. Like Schooler and Mitchell, the Citadel product was used exclusively on special teams and saw action on both return teams and the kickoff coverage squad.
OL Kody Russey (UDFA): The Patriots decided to elevate Russey from the practice squad to the game-day roster in light of starting center David Andrews’ concussion. He did make the game-day team but spent the entire contest on the sideline as emergency depth. Russey has automatically reverted back to the practice squad since then.
The Patriots’ rookie class extends beyond those 12 players. Defensive tackle Jeremiah Pharms Jr. and defensive back Brad Hawkins are both on the practice squad. New England did not elevate any of them to the game-day team versus the Jets, meaning that they all still have three standard elevations available.
Additionally, the Patriots decided to move two rookies to injured reserve recently. Sixth-round lineman Chasen Hines was sent there ahead of the game in New York, while undrafted rookie LaBryan Ray was moved to the practice squad injury list the previous week.
Finally, seventh-round offensive tackle Andrew Stueber remains on the non-football injury list. At this point in time, it appears as if he is in the middle of a redshirt campaign.