The New England Patriots’ regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins was the first opportunity for the team’s rookie class to showcase its talents. While not all members of the group were able to do that, some played more or less prominent roles during the 20-7 defeat.
Let’s quickly go through all of them, starting with first-round draft pick Cole Strange and going all the way to the undrafted free agents that made the team.
G Cole Strange (1-29): There was no doubt that first-round selection Cole Strange would start the game at left guard and under normal circumstances go wire-to-wire. Playing in 100-plus degrees, however, was not normal circumstances: Strange was pulled from the game for a handful of snaps in favor of backup James Ferentz, part of a pre-determined rotation. He ultimately ended up playing 49 of 56 offensive snaps and was not credited with any quarterback disruptions given up. It was a solid debut for the Chattanooga product.
CB Marcus Jones (3-85): Jones entered the contest as a candidate to serve as the starting slot cornerback against Miami’s speedy group of wideouts, but the Patriots decided to use him in a backup role instead. In total, the 85th pick in this year’s draft played just four defensive snaps: he aligned in the box on three of them and was split out wide on the other. He registered no statistics.
CB Jack Jones (4-121): As opposed to Marcus, Jack Jones did see a bit more action versus Miami. He played 11 defensive snaps, primarily on the outside of the formation. The Patriots did not make it easy on him, moving him into coverage of All-Pro wideout Tyreek Hill on multiple occasions. In total, Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went after the fourth-round cornerback twice; Jones gave up one 26-yard reception that might have just as easily ended in an interception had he been able to out-box Hill at the catch point.
RB Pierre Strong Jr. (4-127): With Ty Montgomery able to participate in the contest, the Patriots decided against activating fourth-round pick Pierre Strong Jr. The rookie out of South Dakota State will likely be on the same redshirt plan as a lot of running backs before him.
QB Bailey Zappe (4-137): Zappe is the third quarterback on the Patriots’ depth chart behind starter Mac Jones and veteran backup Brian Hoyer. As a consequence, he was named a game-day inactive — a likely sign of things to come for him the rest of the way.
DT Sam Roberts (6-200): The Patriots activated five interior defensive linemen on Sunday, and Roberts was not among them. The sixth-round rookie was a healthy scratch and will likely only see limited action moving forward this year.
OL Chasen Hines (6-210): With New England promoting James Ferentz to its 53-man roster in the week leading up to the Dolphins game, the writing was already on the wall for Chasen Hines. Indeed, the sixth-round rookie did not make the game-day roster.
S Brenden Schooler (UDFA): The undrafted rookie made the roster primarily due to his special teams contributions, and he was used exclusively in the kicking game in Miami. Schooler played 10 of 19 snaps in the kicking game, seeing action on the four punt and kickoff return and coverage units. His most notable contribution came as a gunner on punt coverage, effectively filling the job previously held by since-released veteran Justin Bethel.
LB DaMarcus Mitchell (UDFA): Just like Schooler, fellow rookie free agent DaMarcus Mitchell also made the team with the kicking game in mind. He played seven snaps in the game’s third phase on Sunday: he was used on kickoff return and coverage as well as on the punt return team. Mitchell did not register any statistics along the way.
Of course, the Patriots’ rookie class extends beyond those nine players; running back Kevin Harris, tight end Jalen Wydermyer, 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 Miami, 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 for at least three more games (but likely more), while offensive tackle Andrew Stueber is on the non-football injury list.