Patriots-Dolphins Takeaways: What Snap Counts Told Us About Depth Chart

Who's atop the Patriots' depth chart based on Week 1 snap counts?

by Doug Kyed

September 14, 2020

Remember when Bill Belichick entertained the notion of a quarterback platoon and suddenly everyone believed the New England Patriots were going to swap QBs in and out like they were running backs?

So much for that idea.

Cam Newton was one of five Patriots players to stay on the field for 100 percent of his unit’s snaps in Sunday’s 21-11 win over the Miami Dolphins.

Here is the Patriots’ complete list of offensive snap counts:

RG Shaq Mason: 64 snaps, 100 percent
LG Joe Thuney: 64 snaps, 100 percent
LT Isaiah Wynn: 64 snaps, 100 percent
C David Andrews: 64 snaps, 100 percent
QB Cam Newton: 64 snaps, 100 percent
TE Ryan Izzo: 63 snaps, 98 percent
WR Damiere Byrd: 56 snaps, 88 percent
WR N’Keal Harry: 51 snaps, 80 percent
RT Jermaine Eluemunor: 48 snaps, 75 percent
WR Julian Edelman: 37 snaps, 58 percent
OL Michael Onwenu: 22 snaps, 34 percent
FB Jakob Johnson: 21 snaps, 33 percent
RB Rex Burkhead: 19 snaps, 30 percent
RB James White: 19 snaps, 30 percent
RB Sony Michel: 19 snaps, 30 percent
TE Devin Asiasi: 10 snaps, 16 percent
RB J.J. Taylor: 9 snaps, 14 percent
WR Jakobi Meyers: 7 snaps, 11 percent
OL Justin Herron: 2 snaps, 3 percent
WR Matthew Slater: 1 snap, 2 percent

Some notes:

— Perhaps the biggest surprise is that Izzo played all but one offensive snap. He also played pretty well, catching a 25-yard pass and delivering key blocks on Newton’s touchdown runs. Asiasi barely played and wasn’t targeted while fellow rookie tight end Dalton Keene was inactive with a neck injury.

— Byrd and Harry were the Patriots No. 1 and 2 wide receivers with Edelman, who dealt with a knee injury earlier in the week, being relegated to No. 3 duties. We’ll monitor that situation closely through the season. Edelman’s drop in snap count didn’t necessarily affect his production. He led the team with five catches for 57 yards. Byrd led wide receivers in snaps but wasn’t targeted. Harry caught five passes on six targets for 39 yards but had some hiccups. He didn’t run hard enough through a tackle on his first reception, and he turned the ball over by fumbling through the Dolphins’ end zone on his final reception. Still, it was the most touches Harry has had in a single game of his NFL career. So, it wasn’t all bad, and Harry did show development. Meyers, who was limited in camp with a shoulder injury, was the Patriots No. 4 receiver with Gunner Olszewski on injured reserve.

— Eluemunor was the only Patriots starting offensive lineman to rotate as Wynn, Thuney, Andrews and Mason played the entire game. The Patriots surprisingly used Onwenu, a college guard, as Eluemunor’s backup and as a jumbo tight end. Reserve offensive tackle Korey Cunningham was inactive while Herron, who can play both guard and tackle, also was situationally used as a jumbo tight end.

— The Patriots’ top three running backs received equal opportunities while Taylor, an undrafted rookie, was on the field for nine productive snaps. Michel led Patriots running backs in touches with 10 carries for 37 yards with a touchdown. Burkhead finished with seven carries for 32 yards. White had five carries for 22 yards and three catches for 30 yards. Taylor ran the ball five times for 22 yards and caught a 4-yard pass. This group could get even more muddled when Damien Harris returns off of injured reserve. Michel and White are the fantasy football backs you want to own right now.

Here’s the Patriots’ complete list of defensive snaps:

FS Devin McCourty 61 snaps, 98 percent
CB Stephon Gilmore 59 snaps, 95 percent
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley 51 snaps, 82 percent
CB Jonathan Jones 46 snaps, 74 percent
CB Jason McCourty 46 snaps, 74 percent
CB JC Jackson 45 snaps, 73 percent
SS Adrian Phillips 43 snaps, 69 percent
DE John Simon 42 snaps, 68 percent
DE Chase Winovich 42 snaps, 68 percent
DT Adam Butler 34 snaps, 55 percent
LB Shilique Calhoun 33 snaps, 53 percent
SS Terrence Brooks 29 snaps, 47 percent
CB JoeJuan Williams 27 snaps, 44 percent
DE Deatrich Wise 24 snaps, 39 percent
DT Lawrence Guy 22 snaps, 35 percent
DT Byron Cowart 21 snaps, 34 percent
DE Derek Rivers 20 snaps, 32 percent
SS Kyle Dugger 11 snaps, 18 percent
DT Xavier Williams 9 snaps, 15 percent
LB Anfernee Jennings 9 snaps, 15 percent
LB Brandon Copeland 8 snaps, 13 percent

— Phillips “won” the Patriots’ starting strong safety job left vacant by Patrick Chung, but Brooks, Williams and Dugger also saw extensive time on the field. Phillips played a hybrid box role as a safety/linebacker. Williams took on a specialty role defending Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki.

Here are the Patriots’ safeties coverage stats:

D. McCourty: two catches on two targets, 32 yards
Phillips: 3-3, 24 yards, interception
Brooks: 2-2 18 yards, defensive pass interference
Williams: 1-3, 9 yards, PBU (INT)

(INT) means the player was targeted on another defender’s interception.

— The Patriots continued rotating Jones, Jason McCourty and Jackson in the No. 2 and 3 cornerback roles behind Gilmore. All three players impressed, and if anything, Gilmore had the most up-and-down performance.

Gilmore: 5-8, 63 yards, INT, DPI x 2
Jackson: 2-4, 18 yards, PBU, INT
Jones: 1-4, 8 yards (INT)
J. McCourty 1-1, 5 yards

— Simon and Winovich were the Patriots’ top edge players at defensive end/outside linebacker. Calhoun, Wise and Rivers also mixed into those spots.

— The Patriots averaged less than two defensive tackles per snap. Butler, Guy, Cowart and Williams combined for 86 total snaps while the Patriots were on the field for 62 total defensive snaps. Wise, who’s also in the defensive line room, was also part of that interior defensive line rotation with 24 snaps. Butler out-snapping Guy is a bit of a surprise.

— Bentley was an almost every-down player. Copeland and Jennings only combined for 17 snaps next to him at inside linebacker. The Patriots utilized more edge rushers and safeties than traditional off-ball linebackers.

Here are the rest of the Patriots’ coverage stats:

Simon: 1-1, 6 yards
Copeland: 1-1, -1 yard

— Copeland, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel and Cody Davis all played 78 percent of special teams snaps. Johnson (56 percent), Burkhead (50 percent), Simon (50 percent), Williams (44 percent) and Dugger (44 percent) also were heavily involved in the kicking game. Byrd and Edelman were back for punt returns while Taylor took over kick return duties.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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