Which Patriots Newcomers Are Meeting Expectations This Season?

The Patriots aren't getting their money's worth in some places

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The New England Patriots’ offseason roster overhaul has yet to bear fruit.

Six games in, the new-look Patriots sit at 2-4, dangerously close to slipping out of the playoff chase with more than half the season still to play. So far, the sum of these new parts hasn’t been any more successful than the talent-deficient 2020 squad that finished 7-9.

But how have those parts performed individually? Ahead of the Patriots’ Week 7 matchup with the New York Jets, we broke New England’s nearly two dozen newcomers down into three groups: those who are exceeding expectations, those who are meeting expectations and those who are performing below expectations.

Note: This list doesn’t include players like Yasir Durant and Shaun Wade who were acquired late in the preseason or in-season pickups like Jamie Collins. 2021 draft picks are marked by asterisks.

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS
*QB Mac Jones
Since beating out Cam Newton in training camp, Jones has been the NFL’s best rookie quarterback, easily outperforming draft mates like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Justin Fields. He’s been accurate, played with good anticipation, earned the trust and respect of his teammates and displayed laudable toughness amid a barrage of early-season hits. There’s much room for improvement, of course, and no one would confuse Jones with an elite quarterback at this early stage of his career. But he looks like the real deal.

OLB Matt Judon
The Patriots’ highest-priced free agent addition in history is living up to his hefty contract. Judon has been New England’s best defensive player this season and one of the NFL’s most disruptive edge rushers. He’s tied for third in sacks (6 1/2), tied for second in tackles for loss (eight) and tied for fifth in QB hits (12).

WR Kendrick Bourne
Bourne is on pace to surpass or equal his career highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. He’s developed a nice connection with Jones, who went right back to him for a 75-yard touchdown Sunday after a botched route by Bourne resulted in a Dallas Cowboys pick-six.

*DT Christian Barmore
The Patriots traded up to draft Barmore in the second round, and he’s looked like a defensive building block thus far, playing 52% of snaps and delivering a number of standout plays. Advanced metrics knock his run defense (his PFF run D grade ranks fourth-to-last among qualified D-tackles), but he’s been one of New England’s top pass rushers, trailing only Judon in total pressures (13).

MEETING EXPECTATIONS
TE Hunter Henry
Henry started slowly after missing the entire preseason with a shoulder injury, but he’s emerged as one of Jones’ favorite targets, catching a touchdown pass in each of the last three games.

CB Jalen Mills
Mills was the most difficult player on this list to place. No one expected him to be one of the Patriots’ starting outside cornerbacks, so he’s exceeded expectations in that regard. But he also hasn’t performed to the level of the guy he replaced, Stephon Gilmore. Mills has mostly been solid this season but struggled to keep up with CeeDee Lamb on several key plays in Sunday’s overtime loss.

OL Ted Karras
Karras has been a godsend for New England’s depleted offensive line in recent weeks, starting the last two games at right guard and playing well. Shaq Mason will reclaim that spot once he’s healthy, but Karras could be the new starter at left guard if the team chooses to keep Mike Onwenu at right tackle.

LB Harvey Langi
Langi has seen minimal playing time on defense (11 total snaps) but has been active on special teams since cracking the roster out of camp.

*OLB Ronnie Perkins
Perkins has yet to suit up for a regular-season game, but this was expected to be a pseudo-redshirt year for the third-round pick, who’s changing positions (defensive end to outside linebacker) and is at the bottom of a crowded depth chart.

*LB Cameron McGrone/S Joshuah Bledsoe
Both will redshirt this season after coming into the draft injured. We’ll see what they can do in 2022.

*WR Tre Nixon
The fact Ernie Adams personally selected Nixon gave him a bit more buzz than your typical seventh-rounder, but it shouldn’t be surprising when a player picked 242nd overall in a shallow draft lands on the practice squad.

BELOW EXPECTATIONS
TE Jonnu Smith
Beginning with his disastrous Week 3 showing against the New York Jets, Smith has caught just seven passes on 15 targets for 54 yards and one touchdown over his last four games. The athleticism and elite run-after-catch ability he flashed for the Tennessee Titans have been bizarrely absent this season. Teammates have been predicting a Smith breakout, but we’ve yet to see it.

OT Trent Brown
Seven snaps. That’s all Brown has played in his first year back with the Patriots. He hasn’t taken the field since the opening series of Week 1 and currently is on injured reserve with a lingering calf issue. With all of his initial replacements struggling, New England now looks poised to begrudgingly shift Onwenu from left guard to right tackle to fill this void.

WR Nelson Agholor
Agholor, whose two-year, $22 million contract drew scrutiny and criticism, hasn’t popped since his five-catch, 72-yard, one-score showing in the season opener. Since then, he ranks 106th in the NFL in receptions and 94th in receiving yards and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass. On Sunday, he dropped a pass in overtime that might have gone for a big gain. Perhaps his involvement will increase if Jones can maintain his recent deep-ball success, but so far, his contract looks like a gross overpay.

LB Kyle Van Noy
Back with the Patriots after one year in Miami, Van Noy hasn’t been the same type of playmaker he was for New England’s “Boogeymen” defense in 2019. Health could be part of the problem, as Van Noy has been absent from or limited in all but three practices since Week 1.

DT Davon Godchaux
The Patriots spent significant capital on Godchaux (two years, $16 million), and he hasn’t been the run-stuffing force they were expecting.

DE Henry Anderson
Long viewed as a good fit for the Patriots’ defense, Anderson was buried on the depth chart by the end of training camp and then suffered a season-ending injury in Week 4.

*RB Rhamondre Stevenson
Stevenson is trending upward and could land in one of the top two groups within the next few weeks. But he was a healthy scratch for three of his first four games after opening the season as the Patriots’ No. 2 early-down back.

*OL Will Sherman
The sixth-round pick was a total non-factor in training camp and currently is one of the Patriots’ last-choice O-linemen.

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