Patriots-Raiders Takeaways: Rookie Defender Flashing Elite Potential

Rookie safety Kyle Dugger excelled in a key role in the Patriots' Week 3 win

The difficulty level for an NFL rookie to see this field this season is at an all-time high, but the New England Patriots still are receiving key contributions from two of their 2020 draft picks.

While four of the Patriots’ top six draft picks were inactive Sunday and third-round tight end Devin Asiasi has yet to be targeted, second-round pick Kyle Dugger is seeing his role on defense increase and sixth-round offensive lineman Michael Onwenu filled in admirably in his first NFL start.

We’ll dive deeper into their contributions in the Patriots’ 36-20 Week 3 win over the Las Vegas Raiders and examine what might have been Sony Michel’s best game as a pro.

PASSING ATTACK
Cam Newton: two dropped passes, two passes batted at the line, 73.1 adjusted completion percentage

— Newton was 0-for-1 on deep passing attempts and 3-of-8 for 65 yards with an interception in the intermediate part of the field, per PFF.
— He was 3-of-4 for 44 yards with an interception and two sacks while under pressure.
— Week 3 was Newton’s weakest performance as a passer in a Patriots uniform, but New England still came away with the victory thanks to standout performances from its running backs.

RUN GAME
RB Sony Michel: 8 yards after contact per attempt, three avoided tackles
RB Rex Burkhead: 3 yards after contact per attempt, three avoided tackles
WR Isaiah Zuber: 2 yards after contact per attempt
RB J.J. Taylor: 1.91 yards after contact per attempt, avoided tackle
WR N’Keal Harry: 1 yard after contact per attempt, three avoided tackles
WR Julian Edelman: 1 yard after contact per attempt
Newton: 0.88 yards after contact per attempt, avoided tackle

— Michel finished with a 73.5 breakaway percentage and 218.2 elusive rating, per PFF.

His previous best elusive rating — which is (Missed Tackles Forced) / (Designed Run Attempts + Receptions) * (Yards After Contact Per Attempt * 100) — came Week 12 in 2019 when he had an 127.5 elusive rating with 4.25 yards after contact per attempt and six avoided tackles.

His best breakaway percentage — which is percentage of yardage that came on runs of 15 yards or more — came Week 7 of the 2018 season with a 81.8 metric. He had just four carries for 22 yards in that game, but one of his rushes was an 18-yarder. This probably was Michel’s best performance as a pro, as he ripped off 38- and 48-yard runs.

PRESSURE ALLOWED
RT Jermaine Eluemunor: sack, hurry
LT Isaiah Wynn: QB hit, hurry
RG Shaq Mason: two hurries
QB Cam Newton: sack
LG Michael Onwenu: hurry
C Joe Thuney: clean
LT Justin Herron: clean

— Thuney started at center for the first time in his NFL career and didn’t allow a single pressure. Not bad.

— Wynn was sidelined for 10 snaps, making way for Herron. Wynn was dealing with a calf injury coming into the game. He also allowed his first two pressures of the season.

— Onwenu played extremely well in his first NFL start. The Patriots have found something in the sixth-round Michigan product who now has played left guard and right tackle as the Patriots’ top reserve in his young career.

PASS RUSH
LB Chase Winovich: sack, QB hit, two hurries, forced fumble
DE Deatrich Wise: sack, QB hit, hurry, forced fumble
LB Shilique Calhoun: sack, two hurries, forced fumble
DT Adam Butler: two hurries
S Adrian Phillips: hurry

— Winovich’s team-leading 12 total pressures this season double-up his runner-up on the team, Wise, who has six.

— Wise has played a much bigger role this season after bulking into the 280-pound range. Wise played just 229 snaps in 14 games last season. He’s already up to 83 snaps through three weeks this year.

— Defensive tackles Lawrence Guy and Byron Cowart had the most pass-rush snaps without a pressure.

PASS COVERAGE
CB Jonathan Jones: six catches on nine targets, 81 yards, TD, two PBUs
S Terrence Brooks: 3-3, 58 yards
CB JC Jackson: 5-6, 50 yards, PBU
CB Stephon Gilmore: 2-3, 20 yards, PBU
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley: 1-2, 18 yards, PBU
S Adrian Phillips: 2-2, 16 yards
Calhoun: 1-1, 6 yards
LB John Simon: 1-1, 5 yards
Winovich: 1-1, 4 yards
CB Jason McCourty: 1-1, 2 yards
LB Brandon Copeland: 1-1, 1 yard, TD
S Devin McCourty: 0-1, two PBUs

— Two names that are notably absent from this list are 2019 second-round pick Joejuan Williams and 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger.

Of Raiders tight end Darren Waller’s 36 routes run, Williams and Dugger covered him on 14 snaps and weren’t even targeted. The Patriots deployed a zone to defend Waller on seven snaps. Jason McCourty took on Waller for five snaps. No other player covered Waller more than three times.

— Williams played just nine snaps and eventually was pulled from the defensive rotation — giving way to Dugger — after getting flagged for holding a second time.

— Dugger played 25 snaps and wasn’t flagged nor targeted. The rookie played 17 snaps in a pseudo-linebacker role. He was in the slot five times, out wide at cornerback twice and on the defensive line once.

It’s a tremendous sign that the Patriots would entrust him with such an important role in just his third NFL game. He’s now third on the team in snaps among safeties and seventh among defensive backs.

— Devin McCourty broke up two passes intended for Waller. He had a very strong game at free safety and isn’t slowing down at 33 years old.

— Jones struggled in his assignment covering Raiders slot receiver Hunter Renfrow.

RUN DEFENSE/TACKLING
Brooks: two run stops
Simon: run stop
DT Lawrence Guy: run stop, missed tackle
Jackson: run stop
Wise: run stop, missed tackle
Jason McCourty: run stop
Winovich: run stop, missed tackle
Cowart: run stop
Calhoun: run stop, forced fumble
Butler: run stop
Devin McCourty: missed tackle

— While Winovich graded out excellent as a pass rusher, he received PFF’s second-lowest grade as a run defender. Bentley actually got the lowest mark.

— The Patriots allowed 5.7 yards per carry, including 4.4 yards per carry to starting running back Josh Jacobs.

For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.

Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images

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