Breaking down snap counts and play percentages from the New England Patriots’ 50-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday:
— The big story here was practice squad wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson, who entered Sunday with just nine career offensive snaps and zero catches on his record. Wilkerson essentially filled injured wideout Nelson Agholor’s role against Jacksonville, playing 60 snaps and catching four passes on eight targets for 42 yards and two touchdowns.
His breakout came at the expense of N’Keal Harry, who was a healthy inactive after struggling against Buffalo the previous week. Head coach Bill Belichick said Wilkerson had “earned the opportunity” through his work in practice.
“That’s always a good thing — for players to get an opportunity and then be able to capitalize on it and show their teammates and the team that they can contribute,” Belichick said Monday morning.
Belichick said roster decisions will be made on a week-by-week basis, but Harry could have a hard time climbing back onto the active list at this point. The 2019 first-round draft pick has yet to catch more than two passes in a game this season, totaling 12 receptions on 21 targets over 11 appearances.
— Up big in the fourth quarter, the Patriots emptied the bench, lifting quarterback Mac Jones for veteran backup Brian Hoyer and swapping out most of their starting offensive line. Only right tackle Trent Brown went wire to wire.
— Sixth O-lineman Mike Onwenu saw action both as a jumbo tight end and at left guard, where he replaced Ted Karras mid-game. Karras finished the game at center, ending starter David Andrews’ ironman streak. Andrews had played every offensive snap over New England’s first 15 games.
— This was a light day for lead back Damien Harris, who played just 16 offensive snaps and didn’t see the field after halftime. The Patriots announced Harris was dealing with a hamstring injury, but with the game all but decided late in the second quarter, they could afford to rest him.
Harris spoke with reporters after the game and said he was “good.”
Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, back after missing last week’s game with COVID-19, carried the load in the second half, finishing with 107 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Harris also scored twice, rushing nine times for 35 yards.
— After spending the entire week on the reserve/COVID-19 list, outside linebacker Matthew Judon saw by far his smallest workload of the season on Sunday.
Entering with a snap rate upward of 80%, Judon made only a brief cameo against the Jaguars, playing 10 defensive snaps (19%). He also was not used on special teams for the first time this season.
It was notable that inside linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley played 77% of snaps after following the same COVID timeline — landed on COVID reserve last Monday, activated Saturday — but Judon had looked like a player who could use a rest. He lacked his usual explosiveness and disruptive capability in losses to Indianapolis and Buffalo, leading to speculation that regularly playing nearly every defensive snap could be wearing him down.
A week away from the practice field and a game day that featured more watching than playing could wind up benefiting the Patriots’ Pro Bowl sack artist come playoff time.
“I’m a football player and if we have a game, I want to play,” Judon said after the game. “That’s the competitor in me. It’s good to relax and stuff, but if we are going to battle, I want a war. That’s just how I am. It’s good to rest your body, but I always want to play.”
Judon leads the Patriots with 12 1/2 sacks this season but has not tallied one in any of their last three games. He entered Sunday ranked third among New England defenders in snaps played, trailing only safety Devin McCourty and cornerback J.C. Jackson.
— Chase Winovich (21 snaps) and Josh Uche (19) were the primary beneficiaries of Judon’s pitch count. Uche’s 40% snap rate was his highest since Week 8, and Winovich snapped a streak of three consecutive games without a single defensive snap.
Jamie Collins started in place of Judon but played just eight snaps on defense, plus seven more on special teams.
— The Patriots rotated liberally in the game’s later stages, giving practice squad call-up D’Angelo Ross (nine snaps) and core special teamer Justin Bethel (eight) garbage-time reps in the secondary. Cornerback Jalen Mills was the only Patriots defender to play 100% of snaps in the win.