The New England Patriots played their second preseason game of the year on Friday night, beating the Carolina Panthers 20-10. The final score is not the main takeaway from the contest, however: for the first time all summer a majority of the Patriots’ starters saw some extended game action.
How did New England opt to use the talent on its roster against Carolina? Let’s take a look at the snap counts to find out.
Total snaps: 69
C Kody Russey (53; 77%), TE Devin Asiasi* (51; 74%), WR Tre Nixon (47; 68%), WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey (47; 68%), QB Bailey Zappe (47; 68%), G James Ferentz* (38; 55%), OT Yodny Cajuste* (38; 55%), OT Michael Onwenu* (38; 55%), G Cole Strange* (38; 55%), WR Josh Hammond (33; 48%), OT William Sherman (31; 45%), OT Arlington Hambright (31; 45%), G Drew Desjarlais (31; 45%), TE Matt Sokol (25; 36%), G Chasen Hines (24; 35%), RB J.J. Taylor (18; 26%), WR Jakobi Meyers* (18; 26%), C David Andrews* (16; 23%), TE Jonnu Smith* (16; 23%), QB Mac Jones* (16; 23%), RB Ty Montgomery II (15; 22%), WR Nelson Agholor (14; 20%), WR Tyquan Thornton (13; 19%), RB Pierre Strong Jr. (12; 17%), WR DeVante Parker* (12; 17%), RB Kevin Harris (9; 13%), RB Damien Harris* (9; 13%), OT Yasir Durant (7; 10%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson (6; 9%), QB Brian Hoyer (6; 9%)
Mac Jones and a majority of New England’s starters took the field on Friday, playing the first three series of the game. Following a pair of three-and-outs, the sophomore quarterback led the unit on a 10-play, 81-yard touchdown drive to end his night on a high note. Jones was briefly replaced by Brian Hoyer, who played one series before handing the keys off to rookie Bailey Zappe in the late second quarter.
The skill position group saw Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor and DeVante Parker all play starter-level roles, with the backups taking over down the stretch. Once again Tre Nixon and Lil’Jordan Humphrey saw considerable action, with Josh Hammond and second-round pick Tyquan Thornton also getting some opportunities. Thornton’s apparent shoulder injury limited him to just 14 total snaps between offense and special teams, however.
The other skill positions saw no surprises. Jonnu Smith and Damien Harris were the starters at tight end and running back, respectively, while Devin Asiasi saw considerable opportunities in light of Hunter Henry, Dalton Keene and Jalen Wydermyer all being out.
The offensive line, on the other hand, was shuffled quite a bit. With starting tackles Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn absent, the team went for a starting lineup of Yodny Cajuste, Cole Strange, David Andrews, James Ferentz and Michael Onwenu.
That lineup is a reflection of New England’s current shortage of tackles: not only were Brown and Wynn out, backup Justin Herron missed all of last week due to injury while Yasir Durant appeared to be on a snap count. Instead of turning to William Sherman or Arlington Hambright, New England went with projected starting right guard Michael Onwenu as its right tackle to open the night.
Total snaps: 61
CB Jonathan Jones* (29; 48%), LB Anfernee Jennings* (28; 46%), LB Raekwon McMillan (27; 44%), CB Myles Bryant (27; 44%), DT Sam Roberts (27; 44%), S Joshuah Bledsoe (25; 41%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (25; 41%), CB Shaun Wade (24; 39%), CB Jack Jones (23; 38%), S Adrian Phillips* (23; 38%), S Brad Hawkins (22; 36%), CB Terrance Mitchell (22; 36%), CB Marcus Jones (21; 34%), S Kyle Dugger (21; 34%), DE LaBryan Ray (21; 34%), S Jalen Elliott (21; 34%), DT Daniel Ekuale (20; 33%), LB Jahlani Tavai* (19; 31%), CB Jalen Mills* (19; 31%), S Devin McCourty* (19; 31%), LB Cameron McGrone (17; 28%), LB Ronnie Perkins (17; 28%), LB Matthew Judon* (17; 28%), LB Ja’Whaun Bentley* (16; 26%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (15; 25%), DT Carl Davis (14; 23%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (14; 23%), DE Henry Anderson (14; 23%), DT Christian Barmore* (14; 23%), DT Davon Godchaux* (14; 23%), DT Lawrence Guy* (13; 21%), LB Josh Uche (13; 21%), LB DaMarcus Mitchell (10; 16%), S Brenden Schooler (5; 8%), LB Harvey Langi (5; 8%), CB Devin Hafford (5; 8%), LB Nate Wieland (5; 8%)
The Patriots’ starting lineup featured two relatively surprising names at linebacker: Jahlani Tavai and, to a lesser degree, Anfernee Jennings.
Tavai was projected as a depth option at the position, but the team likes what the former second-round draft pick brings to the table as a potential early-down option; he started next to Ja’Whaun Bentley and ended up playing one third of defensive snaps. Jennings, meanwhile, saw some starter-level reps in practice and Friday night’s game appears to be confirmation of his status: he will be part of the solution — together with Josh Uche — to fill the open edge position opposite Matthew Judon.
Along the defensive line, New England did what was expected to do: prominently use Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise Jr. early on in the game. Those four are locks or near-locks to make the team, though, meaning that the usage of the backup options behind them is no less interesting.
Rookie Sam Roberts saw the most snaps among them, playing 27 on the night. The sixth-round draft choice did not just see plenty of action, he also again staked his claim to make the roster by recovering a fumble for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
In the secondary, meanwhile, the Patriots went with the expected safety trio of Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger to start the game. At cornerback, Jalen Mills and Jonathan Jones again manned the outside — a continuation of the last two weeks of practice. The slot, however, was initially guarded by Myles Bryant rather than third-round rookie Marcus Jones.
Total snaps: 28
S Brenden Schooler (18; 64%), LB Cameron McGrone (17; 61%), LB DaMarcus Mitchell (17; 61%), S Joshuah Bledsoe (16; 57%), LB Harvey Langi (14; 50%), P Jake Bailey (14; 50%), RB Pierre Strong Jr. (13; 46%), LB Raekwon McMillan (13; 46%), LS Joe Cardona (11; 39%), WR Tre Nixon (10; 36%), LB Anfernee Jennings (9; 32%), CB Shaun Wade (8; 29%), LB Ronnie Perkins (8; 29%), S Cody Davis (8; 29%), TE Devin Asiasi (7, 25%), TE Matt Sokol (7, 25%), CB Jack Jones (7, 25%), WR Matthew Slater (7, 25%), CB Justin Bethel (7, 25%), CB Myles Bryant (6; 21%), C Cody Russey (5; 18%), WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey (5; 18%), G James Ferentz (5; 18%), OT Yodny Cajuste (5; 18%), OT William Sherman (5; 18%), OT Arlington Hambright (5; 18%), G Drew Desjarlais (5; 18%), RB Kevin Harris (5; 18%), K Tristan Vizcaino (5; 18%), RB Ty Montgomery II (4; 14%), WR Josh Hammond (3; 11%), RB J.J. Taylor (3; 11%), CB Jonathan Jones (3; 11%), S Brad Hawkins (3; 11%), CB Marcus Jones (3; 11%), S Kyle Dugger (3; 11%), CB Devin Hafford (3; 11%), DT Sam Roberts (2; 7%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (2; 7%), S Adrian Phillips (2; 7%), CB Terrance Mitchell (2; 7%), DE LaBryan Ray (2; 7%), S Jalen Elliott (2; 7%), LB Jahlani Tavai (2; 7%), LB Nate Wieland (2; 7%), K Nick Folk (2; 7%), WR Tyquan Thornton (1; 4%), DT Carl Davis (1; 4%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (1; 4%)
For the second straight week, Brenden Schooler led the Patriots in kicking game snaps. The undrafted rookie continues to show why he might just end up on the roster after all: not only did he notch a special teams tackle and down a punt, he also iced the game with an interception late in the fourth period.
Other special teamers who stood out include a pair of second-year defenders, linebacker Cameron McGrone and safety Joshuah Bledsoe. Both are fighting for backup spots at their respective positions, and carving out a consistent role in the kicking game might just help their case when final decisions are being made.
The same can also be applied on the other end of the spectrum. Players such as Nate Wieland or Devin Hafford will have a tough time making the team, or in fact surviving the upcoming next roster cutdown deadline, based on their limited usage on both defense and special teams.
Did not play
S Jabrill Peppers, WR Kristian Wilkerson, TE Dalton Keene, G Bill Murray, OT Justin Herron, OT Isaiah Wynn, OT Trent Brown, WR Kendrick Bourne, TE Hunter Henry, TE Jalen Wydermyer
The Patriots’ DNP list had only two real surprises on it. Projected starters Trent Brown and Kendrick Bourne did not see the field for undisclosed reasons; Brown was an active participant in joint practices this week while Bourne was coming off an odd few days: he was ejected from practice on Tuesday before seeing most of his action with the second-string offense on Wednesday.
The others absentees are either currently injured (Wilkerson, Murray, Herron, Wynn, Henry), have just recently returned from injury (Peppers, Keene) or were just added to the active roster (Wydermyer).
OL Andrew Stueber (NFI)
No changes on the inactives front. Seventh-round rookie Andrew Stueber is still on the non-football injury list, and it would not be a surprise if his status remained unchanged heading into the regular season.