One of the surprise standouts of Patriots training camp wound up being a surprise scratch in New England’s season opener.
Linebacker Anfernee Jennings looked poised to play a significant role in his third Patriots season — perhaps even a starting one opposite Pro Bowl edge rusher Matthew Judon — but head coach Bill Belichick chose to make him a healthy inactive for Sunday’s Week 1 matchup with the Dolphins, which New England lost 20-7 at Hard Rock Stadium.
Belichick explained why during his Monday morning video conference.
“Practice and preseason games are two different things,” Belichick said. “In the regular season, you can only activate so many players. You activate the ones that you think will give your team the best opportunity as a total team to win. So that’s what we did. That’s what we’ll continue to do. That’s what it’ll always be.”
Jahlani Tavai got the nod over Jennings, perhaps for his contributions in the kicking game. Tavai played 15 snaps on special teams — third-most behind Matthew Slater and Cody Davis (18 each) — and 17 more on defense, spelling Judon on several occasions.
The Patriots’ other inactives Sunday all were rookies or second-year players: quarterback Bailey Zappe, running back Pierre Strong, offensive lineman Chasen Hines, defensive lineman Sam Roberts, cornerback Shaun Wade and safety Joshuah Bledsoe.
Bledsoe, who had been listed as questionable with a groin injury, could see an opportunity this Sunday against the Pittsburgh Steelers if veteran Adrian Phillips is sidelined. Phillips left the Dolphins loss with a ribs injury and did not return.