The New England Patriots defeated the New York Jets 25-6 in week two of the 2021 NFL Season at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on Sunday. Patriots quarterback Mac Jones outdueled the Jets’ Zach Wilson, completing 22 of 30 passes for 186 yards. Running backs Damien Harris and James White each contributed impressive rushing touchdowns. New England’s secondary intercepted Wilson four times en route to the team’s first victory of 2021.
Heading into their Week Three matchup with the New Orleans Saints, there are plenty of areas in which the Patriots will seek improvement. While game-film analysis will be the main focus, a look at playing time may assist the Pats in helping to devise effective strategies moving forward.
Here is a look at the Patriots offensive and defensive snap counts from Sunday’s matchup, along with some possible insight on New England’s future game-planning.
On offense, the Pats snap count was 58 on Sunday:
For the Patriots, the story of the day would be inconsistent play along the offensive line. With starting right tackle Trent Brown out with a calf injury, Yasir Durant would get the start. However, Durant struggled for much of the day, unable to keep pace with the aggressive Jets defensive front. After playing 31 snaps, Durant would eventually be relieved by Justin Herron in the second quarter. As head coach Bill Belichick indicated during his Monday morning meet with the media, the plan was to split time between Durant and Herron, and that is likely to be the case until Brown is able to return.
With a young secondary that is primed to be tested, conventional wisdom would tell you that the Patriots might deploy their receivers more-often-than-not. While both Jakobi Meyers (52 snaps) and Nelson Agholor (50 snaps) did see the field quite often, Kendrick Bourne was utilized on only 31 of the Pats 58 offensive snaps. Both Agholor and Bourne combined for just five receptions for 31 yards.
Having tended to a hip injury for the better part of the week, a decrease in snaps for tight end Jonnu Smith was expected; with the Patriots taking the smart approach by managing Smith’s health. Henry, however, saw an increase in snaps from week one (72%) to week two (81%). Henry connected with Mac Jones for a 32-yard gain in the third quarter, which Patriots fans hope is a sign of things to come.
Running back James White (29) was actually the Patriots leading pass catcher on Sunday, receiving six passes on six targets for 45 yards. The Pats team captain also ran five times for 20 yards and a touchdown, more than earning each snap. Damien Harris (24) also turned in a solid performance, nicely rebounding from a disappointing end to week one. Harris delivered perhaps the play-of-the-day with a tough 26-yard run for a touchdown.
One of the surprises of the day was J.J. Taylor’s presence on the field for only five offensive snaps. With rookie Rhamondre Stevenson seemingly on the Belichickian equivalent of ‘double-secret-probation,’ Taylor was expected to assume the change-of-pace role However, the Pats chose to primarily utilize a two-man tandem of Harris and White. As the Pats prepare for the Saints in week three, Taylor might see greater opportunities in the running game.
On Sunday, the Patriots took a total of 73 snaps on defense:
Once again, safety Devin McCourty played in 100 percent of the Patriots defensive snaps. The 34-year-old defensive captain continues to be an intricate component on big defensive plays, nabbing an interception, as well as being in coverage for J.C. Jackson’s first pick of the afternoon. Jackson would see action in 49 of the Pats 73 snaps, with much of his rest coming in the fourth quarter when the Pats had the game well-in-hand.
The Pats employed ‘big-nickel’ in the secondary on Sunday, utilizing three safeties for much of the day. Along with McCourty, safeties Kyle Dugger (55) and Adrian Phillips (55) saw steady action. Dugger was in on coverage throughout the defensive backfield, while Phillips intercepted Wilson in the first half.
Rookie Christian Barmore continues to see additional time along the Pats defensive line, indicating that he may be in-line for a spot as a potential three-down lineman. His ability to push the pocket and assist in coverage earned him an increase to 40 snaps, from his 26 in week one.
Ja’Whaun Bentley led all linebackers, taking 68 defensive snaps, which was the third-highest count of his career (93%.) In Kyle Van Noy’s absence, Dont’a Hightower (60 snaps) aligned mostly as an edge rusher, while Bentley saw the majority of his snaps off the ball. The 25-year-old provided solid coverage in his role, earning the praise of his coaches, including Bill Belichick.
When in need of some edge-rush assistance off the bench, the Patriots turned to practice-squad elevation Tashawn Bower, who saw 15 snaps in a limited, but specialized role.