Their Thanksgiving game against the Minnesota Vikings saw the New England Patriots play some competitive football against one of the better teams in the NFL. In the end, however, they came up just short and lost with a final score of 33-26.
Let’s quickly go through all of the first-year players currently on the team to find out how they performed against the Vikings in Week 12. 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): Once again going wire-to-wire at left guard, Strange took a step in the right direction against the Vikings after a string of uneven games versus some of the better defensive fronts in the league. That said, the first-round pick still had his inconsistencies and was credited with four quarterback disruptions given up by Pro Football Focus — the highest such number on the team.
WR Tyquan Thornton (2-50): Even with Jakobi Meyers limited due to a shoulder injury, Thornton saw limited opportunities. Finishing the game as the Patriots’ WR4 in terms of snaps, he was on the field for 20 of 55 and finished with no touches; he did not even see a single target in the passing game. It was the first such game of his young career.
CB Marcus Jones (3-85): The hero of Week 11, Jones also had a solid game as a return man in Week 12. While not scoring a touchdown this time around, he finished with 46-yard kickoff return on his lone runback and a 5.5-yard return average in the punt game. Jones, who once again played exclusively on special teams, also had a tackle in the game’s third phase.
CB Jack Jones (4-121): Jones had a relatively quiet evening, playing 28 snaps and not making any impact plays one way or the other. He was, however, on the field for the game-winning touchdown and appears to have missed his zone drop a bit on the 15-yard pass from Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins to wide receiver Adam Thielen.
RB Pierre Strong Jr. (4-127): With Rhamondre Stevenson and Damien Harris both available, the Patriots again used Strong Jr. only in the kicking game. And while most of his 17 snaps were unremarkable, he was on the field for both the Vikings’ 97-yard kickoff return — without playing any major role, though — as well as a faux pas of his own: on a 4th-and-3, he ran into the punter. The penalty moved the chains, and three plays later Minnesota went up 33-26.
QB Bailey Zappe (4-137): Mac Jones played his best game of the season, leading to the fourth-round rookie spending another game on the sidelines. Unless the injury bug bites Jones again it seems unlikely Zappe will return to the starting lineup anytime soon.
RB Kevin Harris (6-183): The Patriots decided to deactivate their sixth-round running back for a fourth week in a row. With Damien Harris suffering a thigh injury, however, the youngster might be seeing increase opportunities moving forward.
DT Sam Roberts (6-200): Even though Christian Barmore missed another week due to a knee injury, the Patriots decided to deactivate Roberts for the game against the Vikings. The sixth-rounder has now been inactive as a healthy scratch in four straight games.
S Brenden Schooler (UDFA): Between the kickoff return score and Pierre Strong Jr.’s penalty, the Patriots’ kicking operation had a rough day. Brenden Schooler was again an active part of the unit as well, registering two tackles in his team-high 27 snaps. However, he also came in just a bit too late to chase down the Vikings’ Kene Nwangwu from behind on the touchdown.
LB DaMarcus Mitchell (UDFA): Playing 26 snaps in the game’s third phase, Mitchell was part of five units again: like Brenden Schooler he played on punt coverage and return, kickoff coverage and return, and the field goal/extra point block team. He was maybe the closest player to stopping Minnesota’s touchdown, but came just a split-second late off his block.
WR Raleigh Webb (UDFA): Webb played his usual role on three special teams units. Appearing on the kickoff coverage, kickoff return and punt return squad he too was around Minnesota’s kickoff return TD: Webb was unable to disengage from his block quickly enough.
OL Kody Russey (UDFA): The rookie free agent spent the game as interior offensive lineman No. 4, but with the Patriots’ starting offensive line playing all 55 offensive snaps remained on the bench throughout the night. Russey has yet to see any game action since his promotion to the active roster earlier this month.
The Patriots’ rookie class extends beyond those 12 players. Offensive lineman Hayden Howerton, defensive tackle 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 the Vikings, meaning that they all still have three standard elevations available.
Additionally, the Patriots have three rookie players on injury-related reserve lists. Sixth-round offensive lineman Chasen Hines is on injured reserve and eligible to return this week; seventh-round offensive tackle Andrew Stueber remains on the non-football injury list and appears to be in the middle of a redshirt campaign; UDFA defensive lineman LaBryan Ray is on the practice squad injury list.