The New England Patriots made a series of roster moves on the eve of their Week 6 game against the Las Vegas Raiders, including adding players to their 53-man team. Whereas Malik Cunningham was promoted from the practice squad, Tyquan Thornton was activated from injured reserve.
Less than 24 hours later, both were on the field making their season debuts. Cunningham was used as a package option at wide receiver and even quarterback, with Thornton serving as a starter-level wideout and rotational third option at the position.
That said, their actual impact on the team and New England’s offense as a whole was relatively minor.
Cunningham was on the field for just six of a possible 60 offensive snaps (10%), lining up in the backfield twice, motioning out wide once, and also playing three reps in the slot. In total, he handed the ball off once, was sacked on an option play, and did neither attempt any passes nor runs while also not being targeted on his three routes.
Thornton had a comparatively active day, getting the start and playing 25 snaps (42%) while also touching the ball on a 6-yard reception in the third quarter — one of two targets coming his way. All in all, though, the former second-round draft pick was eased back into the mix and not much of a difference-maker.
As for the other usage-based takeaways from the Patriots’ 21-17 loss to the Raiders, here is our weekly snap count report.
Total snaps: 60
LT Trent Brown* (60; 100%), LG Atonio Mafi* (60; 100%), C David Andrews* (60; 100%), RG Sidy Sow* (60; 100%), RT Vederian Lowe* (60; 100%), QB Mac Jones* (57; 95%), WR Kendrick Bourne* (56; 93%), WR DeVante Parker* (45; 75%), RB Rhamondre Stevenson* (39; 65%), TE Hunter Henry* (37; 62%), TE Mike Gesicki (36; 60%), WR Tyquan Thornton* (25; 42%), RB Ezekiel Elliott (23; 38%), TE Pharaoh Brown (19; 32%), WR Jalen Reagor (14; 23%), WR/QB Malik Cunningham (6; 10%), RB/WR Ty Montgomery II (3; 5%)
Besides the additions of Thornton and Cunningham, the Patriots’ wide receiver group was effectively a two-man show: Kendrick Bourne and DeVante Parker were the clear top options ahead of Thornton. Jalen Reagor also saw some action as a rotational perimeter target but finished without any statistics, while two of Ty Montgomery’s three snaps came in a receiver alignment as well.
With the team missing both JuJu Smith-Schuster and Demario Douglas due to concussions, the tight end position saw more action. Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki were heavily involved, with the latter receiving his second-highest snap total of the season. Their usage did not directly translate into significant production, though, with the pair and TE3 Pharaoh Brown combining to catch five passes for 50 yards.
Up front, the Patriots found some stability for once. The starting five — Trent Brown, Atonio Mafi, David Andrews, Sidy Sow and Vederian Lowe — went wire-to-wire, but the group as a whole mostly struggled again with two starters effectively inactive. It did manage to generate some push in the running game for once, though.
Speaking of inconsistency, Mac Jones started and finished the game after getting pulled early in back-to-back weeks. He did miss three snaps in place of Cunningham, but those had nothing to do with his performance against the Raiders: the Patriots kept Jones in the lineup even after he threw a bad interception in the late second quarter.
Total snaps: 70
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley* (70; 100%), CB J.C. Jackson* (67; 96%), S Jabrill Peppers* (65; 93%), S Kyle Dugger* (64; 91%), ED Anfernee Jennings* (57; 81%), CB Jonathan Jones* (55; 79%), LB Jahlani Tavai* (53; 76%), DT Christian Barmore* (50; 71%), DT Davon Godchaux* (49; 70%), DT Lawrence Guy Sr.* (45; 64%), CB Myles Bryant (44; 63%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (39; 56%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (23; 33%), S/CB Jalen Mills (20; 29%), ED Josh Uche (19; 27%), DE Sam Roberts (17; 24%), S Adrian Phillips (12; 17%), CB Shaun Wade (10; 14%), ED Keion White* (8; 11%), DT Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (2; 3%)
The injury bug continues to bite the Patriots defense, with four players having to leave the game at one point. Jabrill Peppers did return quickly, but Jonathan Jones missed some time and neither Keion White, nor Josh Uche reentered the contest — creating a trickle-down effect at their respective positions.
At cornerback, Shaun Wade saw increased snaps alongside J.C. Jackson and slot option Myles Bryant. Jalen Mills also factored into the mix at the position, but was moved all over the lineup en route to his third-highest output of the year.
Along the edge, meanwhile, Anfernee Jennings finished the game with a career-high playing time share of 81 percent. With White and Uche combining to play only 27 snaps, the Patriots also moved off-ball linebacker Jahlani Tavai around: the veteran played a season-high 35 of his 53 snaps at outside linebacker. As a consequence of that move, reserve linebacker Mack Wilson finished the game with a season-high 33 percent share.
Elsewhere, the Patriots employed their personnel as usual. Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger were the top options at safety; Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise Jr. were the main men up front; Ja’Whaun Bentley was the primary off-ball linebacker.
Total snaps: 25
WR Matthew Slater (22; 88%), S Brenden Schooler (22; 88%), LB Chris Board (22; 88%), LB Jahlani Tavai (21; 84%), S Adrian Phillips (21; 84%), LB Mack Wilson Sr. (16; 64%), TE Pharaoh Brown (14; 56%), RB/WR/KR Ty Montgomery II (14; 56%), ED Anfernee Jennings (14; 56%), LB/S Marte Mapu (14; 56%), CB Ameer Speed (13; 52%), DT Lawrence Guy Sr. (10; 40%), CB/PR Myles Bryant (8; 32%), K Chad Ryland (7; 28%), P/H Bryce Baringer (7; 28%), S Kyle Dugger (6; 24%), DE Deatrich Wise Jr. (6; 24%), DE Sam Roberts (6; 24%), LS Joe Cardona (6; 24%), S Jabrill Peppers (5; 20%), G Atonio Mafi (3; 12%), G Sidy Sow (3; 12%), OT Trent Brown (3; 12%), OT Vederian Lowe (3; 12%), C Jake Andrews (3; 12%), OT Calvin Anderson (3; 12%), CB Jonathan Jones (2; 8%), CB Shaun Wade (1; 4%)
The Patriots used 28 players in the kicking game, including 10 who only played in the game’s third phase. While most of the names on that particular list do not come as a surprise, one does: third-round rookie Marte Mapu lined up exclusively on special teams after having seen semi-regular defensive action over the first five games.
Other than that, New England’s kicking game continued to feature a standard cast of characters that included Ty Montgomery as the kickoff returner and Myles Bryant returning punts. Adrian Phillips again was heavily featured as well, in contrast to his defensive usage.
Did not play
G Michael Onwenu
With the Patriots using both quarterbacks on their game day roster — albeit in different ways — only one player was not inserted into the lineup: nominal starting right guard Michael Onwenu spent the entirety of the game on the sidelines after entering the weekend questionable with an ankle ailment. Head coach Bill Belichick later confirmed that he was basically an emergency-only option.
QB Bailey Zappe (emergency QB), WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, QB Will Grier, G Cole Strange, OL Riley Reiff, WR Kayshon Boutte, WR Demario Douglas
The Patriots’ inactives list features some prominent names this week. Bailey Zappe, who served as the Mac Jones’ primary backup the first five weeks of the season, was declared inactive as the third emergency quarterback — taking over a role that was previously held by regular inactive Will Grier.
Joining them on the sidelines were offensive linemen Cole Strange (knee) and Riley Reiff (knee), as well as a trio of wide receivers: the aforementioned JuJu Smith-Schuster (concussion) and Demario Douglas (concussion), and healthy scratch Kayshon Boutte.