Who Has Patriots’ Most Versatile Player Been So Far This Season?

Which Patriots defender plays the most positions?


Oct 29, 2020

If there’s one thing Bill Belichick loves more than cut-off sleeves and $5 footlongs, it’s versatility.

And while the New England Patriots haven’t been overly successful on their way to a 2-4 record this season, they do have plenty of versatility on their 53-man roster and 16-man practice squad.

So, that bears the question: Who’s the most versatile player on the Patriots?

It has to be someone who can play multiple positions on offense or defense and have a role on special teams.

We’ve whittled down the list to these nine names: wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, tight end Dalton Keene, offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, linebacker Brandon Copeland, cornerbacks Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones and safeties Kyle Dugger, Terrence Brooks and Joejuan Williams.

We’ll rule out Meyers first even though it’s impressive that he’s played 32 snaps split out wide and 29 in the slot. He doesn’t play special teams beyond serving as a backup punt returner, however.

Here are his snap breakdowns, via PFF:

Wide: 32 snaps – 50.8%
Slot: 29 snaps – 46%
Backfield: 2 snaps – 3.2%
Total: 63 snaps

Copeland is a strong candidate, but we’ll rule him out next. Prior to suffering a season-ending injury, he played on all four phases of special teams but only spent 34.5 percent of his total snaps on defense. He played 34 snaps on the line of scrimmage and 26 off, however, which is an impressive split for a defender.

DL: 30 snaps – 17.2%
LB: 26 snaps – 14.9%
Slot: 4 snaps – 2.3%
Kickoff: 27 snaps – 15.5%
Kick return: 30 snaps – 17.2%
Punt: 15 snaps – 8.6%
Punt return: 16 snaps – 9.2%
FG/XP: 26 snaps – 14.9%
Total: 174 snaps

We’ll take Williams out of the equation next. He has played just 119 total snaps so far but only 43.7 percent have come on defense, where he splits his time between the slot, strong safety and cornerback.

Slot: 38 snaps – 31.9%
SS: 7 snaps – 5.9%
CB: 7 snaps – 5.9%
Kick return: 33 snaps – 27.7%
Kickoff: 28 snaps – 23.5%
Punt return: 6 snaps – 5%
Total: 119 snaps

Keene will come off of the board next since he’s only played one game. He moved all over the field Sunday, however.

Slot: 12 snaps – 38.7%
Inline: 9 snaps – 29%
Wide: 2 snaps – 6.5%
Backfield: 1 snaps – 3.2%
Kick return: 7 snaps – 22.6%

He similarly played in the slot, at tight end, out wide and at fullback at Virginia Tech.

So, that brings us to our top five most versatile players on the Patriots. Here are their snap breakdowns:

Jonathan Jones:
Slot: 170 snaps – 47.1%
SS: 61 snaps – 16.9%
FS: 53 snaps – 14.7%
CB: 12 snaps – 3.3%
DL: 6 snaps – 1.7%
Kickoff: 28 snaps – 7.8%
FG: 28 snaps – 7.8%
Punt return: 3 snaps – .83%
Total: 361 snaps

Michael Onwenu:
LG: 112 snaps – 34.3%
RT: 91 snaps – 27.8%
RG: 88 snaps – 26.9%
TE: 14 snaps – 4.3%
FG/XP: 22 snaps – 6.7%
Total: 327 snaps

Jason McCourty:
CB: 97 snaps – 40.9%
SS: 60 snaps – 25.3%
Slot: 37 snaps – 15.6%
FS: 29 snaps – 12.2%
DL: 3 snaps – 1.3%
Kickoff: 10 snaps – 4.2%
Punt return: 1 snaps – .42%
Total: 237

Kyle Dugger:
SS/LB: 72 snaps – 38.9%
Slot: 21 snaps – 11.4%
FS: 10 snaps – 5.4%
CB: 8 snaps – 4.3%
DL: 2 snaps – 1.1%
Kick return: 27 snaps – 14.6%
Kickoff: 25 snaps – 13.5%
FG/XP: 11 snaps – 5.9%
Punt return: 9 snaps – 4.9%
Total: 185 snaps

Terrence Brooks:
SS/LB: 70 snaps – 43.8%
Slot: 15 snaps – 9.4%
FS: 15 snaps – 9.4%

DL: 5 snaps – 3.1%
CB: 4 snaps – 2.5%
Kickoff: 28 snaps – 17.5%
Punt return: 9 snaps – 5.6%

Punt: 8 snaps – 5%
FG/XP: 6 snaps – 3.8%
Total: 160 snaps

First of all, it’s a positive sign that two rookies — Onwenu and Dugger — are on this list.

— Jones has seen his special teams snaps reduced as his defensive snaps have risen. He’s also playing far more snaps at safety than he has in years prior, however. Last season, for example, he played just 83 total snaps at safety. That number is already up to 114 this season.

— As an offensive lineman, Onwenu isn’t going to be a four-phase special teams player. But the fact that he’s playing three different positions on the offensive line almost evenly is pretty incredible for a rookie sixth-round pick.

— McCourty has seen his versatility increase exponentially since coming to New England in 2018. In 2017 with the Cleveland Browns, McCourty played 83.5 percent of his snaps at cornerback. He had essentially only been a cornerback and occasional special teams player in Cleveland and with the Tennessee Titans. Now, he’s added the slot to his arsenal and is playing safety almost as much as cornerback.

— Brooks is another player who has seen his special teams workload lessen as he plays more on defense. He’s like a poor man’s Patrick Chung who can play either safety position, linebacker and in the slot.

— It was unclear where Dugger would primarily play when he was drafted by the Patriots since he was mostly a free safety in college at Lenoir-Rhyne. The answer, so far, is nowhere. He has the size to cover tight ends and line up in the box at linebacker and strong safety. He also has the speed to play deep at free safety and on special teams. And he’s doing it all as a rookie.

So, what’s the verdict?

It’s McCourty. He’s playing outside cornerback, slot, free safety, strong safety and special teams. He’s also covered tight ends this season. No one else on the roster has his evenly varied workload while also playing the majority of snaps.

Thumbnail photo via Paul Rutherford/USA TODAY Sports Images
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