The New England Patriots’ 2022 season is finally underway, with the team having played its first game on Thursday night. Granted, it was a preseason contest that has no impact on the standings, but the 23-21 loss to the visiting New York Giants 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 New York? Let’s take a look at the snap counts to find out.
Total snaps: 62
TE Matt Sokol* (51; 82%), WR Tre Nixon* (51; 82%), C Kody Russey (48; 77%), QB Bailey Zappe (48; 77%), WR Kristian Wilkerson* (46; 74%), WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey (44; 71%), OT Justin Herron* (43; 69%), OT Yodny Cajuste* (41; 66%), G Arlington Hambright* (36; 58%), OT Yasir Durant (35; 56%), WR Josh Hammond (34; 55%), G Bill Murray (34; 55%), G William Sherman (31; 50%), RB Pierre Strong Jr. (27; 44%), WR Tyquan Thornton* (22; 35%), RB Kevin Harris (21; 34%), RB J.J. Taylor* (14; 23%), G Drew Desjarlais (14; 23%), G Cole Strange* (14; 23%), QB Brian Hoyer* (14; 23%), C James Ferentz* (14; 23%)
No Mac Jones meant that Brian Hoyer started the game as quarterback; he was replaced by fourth-round rookie Bailey Zappe after two series. Hoyer led the Patriots to one punt and one touchdown, with Zappe’s drives ending in five punts — including three straight to open his preseason career — as well as a pair of touchdowns and one interception.
More interesting than the quarterback usage, however, was the rest of the roster. At wide receiver, Tre Nixon and Kristan Wilkerson served as the one-two punch in terms of playing time, with second-round rookie Tyquan Thornton as the third starter.
At running back, J.J. Taylor was the first man up. However, he in terms of snaps and touches both rookies were more actively involved: Pierre Strong Jr. played 27 snaps and had seven touches for a combined 25 yards; Kevin Harris also touched the ball seven times for a combined seven yards and one touchdown.
Along the offensive line, first-round rookie Cole Strange made his NFL debut. He played two series with the starting offense but departed in the early second quarter — something that is also true for center James Ferentz. The other starters stayed onto the field a bit longer: Yodny Cajuste and Justin Herron at tackle, and Arlington Hambright at right guard.
Total snaps: 86
S Jalen Elliott* (75; 87%), DB Joshuah Bledsoe* (67; 78%), S Brad Hawkins* (66; 77%), CB Jack Jones (63; 73%), LB Cameron McGrone (58; 67%), DT Sam Roberts (58; 67%), CB Shaun Wade (57; 66%), CB Joejuan Williams (48; 56%), DE LaBryan Ray (46; 53%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (41; 48%), LB Harvey Langi (40; 47%), LB Ronnie Perkins (40; 47%), DT Daniel Ekuale* (36; 42%), LB Anfernee Jennings* (35; 41%), DE Henry Anderson* (31; 36%), DT Carl Davis* (28; 33%), LB Mack Wilson Sr.* (25; 29%), CB Terrance Mitchell* (23; 27%), CB Malcolm Butler* (23; 27%), LB Josh Uche (23; 27%), LB Raekwon McMillan* (19; 22%), LB Nate Wieland (18; 21%), CB Myles Bryant (15; 17%), LB DaMarcus Mitchell (11; 13%)
Most of the Patriots’ defensive starters did not take the field, but the off-the-ball linebacker position still saw considerable contributions from its current depth chart. With the exception of veteran Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai, who had suffered an injury last week, the team used all members of the group. The starting roles were filled by Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson Sr., who both project as prominent members of the three-player rotation alongside with Bentley.
Up front, meanwhile, rookies Sam Roberts and LaBryan Ray saw regular action; both looked good. Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche also saw action on the line, serving as outside linebackers for 35 and 23 snaps, respectively.
In the backend, the Patriots rested several roster locks including cornerbacks Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones and Marcus Jones. The other players on the roster were heavily involved, with Terrance Mitchell and Malcolm Butler as the starters on the outside. Interestingly enough, safety Joshuah Bledsoe started the game playing plenty of snaps from the slot; Shaun Wade, on the other hand, was used primarily on the perimeter.
Total snaps: 28
DB Brenden Schooler (21; 75%), DB Joshuah Bledsoe (15; 54%), LB Harvey Langi (15; 54%), LB DaMarcus Mitchell (15; 54%), TE Matt Sokol (14; 50%), S Jalen Elliott (13; 46%), LB Cameron McGrone (13; 46%), LB Anfernee Jennings (12; 43%), CB Terrance Mitchell (12; 43%), WR Tre Nixon (10; 36%), WR Kristian Wilkerson (10; 36%), RB Pierre Strong Jr. (10; 36%), S Brad Hawkins (10; 36%), CB Shaun Wade (10; 36%), CB Myles Bryant (9; 32%), LS Joe Cardona (9; 32%), WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey (8; 29%), RB Kevin Harris (8; 29%), CB Joejuan Williams (8; 29%), RB J.J. Taylor (6; 21%), LB Ronnie Perkins (6; 21%), P Jake Bailey (6; 21%), K Tristan Vizcaino (6; 21%), WR Josh Hammond (5; 18%), DT Sam Roberts (5; 18%), DE LaBryan Ray (5; 18%), LB Nate Wieland (5; 18%), CB Jack Jones (4; 14%), P Jake Julien (4; 14%), OT Justin Herron (3; 11%), G Arlington Hambright (3; 11%), OT Yasir Durant (3; 11%), G William Sherman (3; 11%), G Drew Desjarlais (3; 11%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (3; 11%), LB Raekwon McMillan (3; 11%), OT Yodny Cajuste (2; 7%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (2; 7%), D Carl Davis (2; 7%), CB Malcolm Butler (2; 7%), LB Josh Uche (2; 7%), C Kody Russey (1; 4%), DT Daniel Ekuale (1; 4%), K Nick Folk (1; 4%)
After spending considerable time with fellow core special teamers Matthew Slater and Cody Davis throughout training camp, Brenden Schooler led the team in kicking game snaps on Thursday. The undrafted rookie free agent saw action on all four return and coverage teams and continues his push to maybe make the roster or at least practice squad.
Other noteworthy playing time shares went to Cameron McGrone, who is fourth on the linebacker depth chart but might make his way onto the game-day squad through his kicking game contributions. Terrance Mitchell, meanwhile, also had a regular role in the game’s third phase despite regularly running with the starters at practice.
Did not play
WR DeVante Parker, CB Jalen Mills, S Jabrill Peppers, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, LB Matthew Judon, QB Mac Jones, RB Ty Montgomery, WR Nelson Agholor, WR Jakobi Meyers, WR Matthew Slater, S Adrian Phillips, S Cody Davis, S Kyle Dugger, CB Marcus Jones, CB Justin Bethel, CB Jonathan Jones, S Devin McCourty, RB Damien Harris, RB Rhamondre Stevenson, TE Dalton Keene, LB Jahlani Tavai, C David Andrews, OL Chasen Hines, G Michael Onwenu, OT Isaiah Wynn, OT Trent Brown, TE Jonnu Smith, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, TE Devin Asiasi, DT Christian Barmore, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., DT Davon Godchaux, DT Lawrence Guy
A significant portion of the Patriots’ starters did not take the field on Thursday night, including quarterback Mac Jones. A few noteworthy names are still on that list, though.
For starters, Ty Montgomery and Marcus Jones remained on the sidelines. Montgomery appears to be the leading candidate to replace either the retired James White as the team’s receiving back, or to fill a Brandon Bolden-like role on offense and special teams. Jones, meanwhile, joined the team as a third-round draft pick earlier this year and after seeing prominent snaps with the starting defense this week played zero snaps versus New York.
Additionally, a handful of injured players did not dress. Dalton Keene, Jahlani Tavai and Devin Asiasi are all dealing with some medical ailments; Chasen Hines was just activated off the non-football injury list (NFI) earlier this week.
OL Andrew Stueber (NFI), RB James White (PUP)
While veteran running back James White announced his retirement a few hours before kickoff, the move was not yet processed by the NFL. Accordingly, he is still listed here but will come off the list and active roster soon. That leaves seventh-round rookie Andrew Stueber as the only inactive.