Patriots Snap Count Analysis: Linebacker Sees Play Time Spike Vs. Colts

Jamie Collins filled the void left by Ja'Whaun Bentley's ankle injury


Dec 20, 2021

Breaking down snap counts and play percentages from the New England Patriots’ 27-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday night:


— Rhamondre Stevenson got the start at running back in place of the injured Damien Harris (hamstring). But with the Patriots struggling to run the ball and falling behind 17-0 in the first half, the rookie wound up playing fewer snaps (31) than third-down back Brandon Bolden (38).

Stevenson, who’d run well in Harris’ absence in previous weeks, finished with just 36 yards on 10 carries and did not touch the ball in the fourth quarter.

— This pass-focused approach also resulted in smaller workloads for tight end Jonnu Smith (17 snaps), fullback Jakob Johnson (10) and sixth offensive lineman Mike Onwenu (six). Tight end Hunter Henry, meanwhile, saw his playing time spike (55 snaps).

The Patriots typically use Henry more in passing situations and Smith more as a run blocker, though both contribute in both areas. Henry led all receivers Saturday with six catches on eight targets for 77 yards and two touchdowns. Smith finished with one catch on three targets for 3 yards and one carry for 2 yards, though he did have gains of 11 and 14 yards negated by flags. He also was flagged for a false start in the red zone — one of several costly New England penalties.

— With No. 2 wide receiver Nelson Agholor exiting with a head injury during the third quarter, Jakobi Meyers (94%) and Kendrick Bourne (71%) logged their highest snap rates since Weeks 4 and 3, respectively. N’Keal Harry played a season-high 53% of snaps — and hauled in a key 43-yard reception from quarterback Mac Jones — before taking a shot to the head on the Patriots’ final drive.

— Running back Devine Ozigbo was elevated from the practice squad for extra depth behind Stevenson and Bolden, but he didn’t see the field on offense or special teams. Elevated practice squad O-lineman James Ferentz also dressed but did not play.


— An ankle injury knocked out starting linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley after just 11 snaps, resulting in a sharp uptick in playing time for veteran Jamie Collins.

After playing no more than 27% of defensive snaps in his first six games back with the Patriots, Collins played 71% against Indianapolis and finished as Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded New England defender.

Collins had one edge containment breakdown on a Jonathan Taylor carry, but he delivered a number of positive plays for New England. He tipped a Carson Wentz pass that Devin McCourty intercepted. Earlier, he nearly grabbed his own interception on another ill-advised Wentz throw. He also stuffed Taylor for a 4-yard loss late in the game, helping force a Colts punt.

The three-time Patriot’s role in the coming weeks likely will depend on the severity of Bentley’s injury, which had not been reported as of Sunday night. But Collins has been an asset for New England’s defense since returning in early October.

— With Collins filling in for Bentley, the Patriots did less rotating in their front seven than usual. Matthew Judon, Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy all played upward of 90% of snaps in the same game for the first time this season.

— D-tackle Davon Godchaux played 85% of defensive snaps, setting a new season high. Christian Barmore’s 67% mark was his third-highest, and Lawrence Guy’s 63% was his second-highest. The Patriots went heavy up front in an effort to stifle Taylor, with nose tackle Carl Davis, who left with an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter, also playing 31% of snaps.

Did it work? Not really. Taylor rushed for 170 yards on 29 carries, including a game-sealing 67-yard touchdown with two minutes remaining. Excluding that final back-breaking score, the Patriots held the NFL rushing leader and MVP candidate to a respectable 3.7 yards per carry.

— Defensive end Deatrich Wise played just four defensive snaps, notching New England’s lone sack on one of them. Wise is best used as a pass rusher, and the Colts attempted just 12 passes in the game, with Wentz going 5-for-12 for 57 yards and one touchdown with one pick.

— Safety Kyle Dugger was ejected following a third-quarter scrap with Colts receiver Michael Pittman Jr. Pittman also was tossed.

— For the second consecutive week, outside linebacker Chase Winovich played only on special teams (12 snaps). He’s totaled just 11 defensive snaps over four games since returning from injured reserve last month.

Reserve inside ‘backer Jahlani Tavai also was strictly a special teamer in this one (14 snaps).

— The Patriots ditched the periodic cornerback rotation they had been employing since midseason. Starters Jalen Mills and J.C. Jackson went wire to wire for the first time since Weeks 4 and 5, respectively, with Joejuan Williams sitting as a healthy scratch and Shaun Wade’s only action coming in the kicking game (two snaps).

Outside of one early hiccup (losing Pittman on a deep ball that Wentz overthrew), Jackson had a great night in coverage, breaking up three passes.

Thumbnail photo via Christine Tannous/IndyStar / USA TODAY NETWORK
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