By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots completely changed up the offense in their 35-30 loss to Seattle Monday night. After a ground-and-pound attack in Week 1, New England opened things up, throwing the ball 44 times.
How did that impact who played and who didn’t? Let’s take a look at the Week 2 snap count numbers overall, then focus in on a few key positions:
Julian Edelman’s 52 snaps jump out almost immediately. The 34-year-old played just 58 percent of the Patriots offensive downs against Miami, that number rose to 72 percent on Sunday night.
An increased focus on the passing game naturally means more snaps for Edelman, so it’s not a major surprise. Still, the team is reportedly being cautious with him to try and keep their top receiver healthy for the duration of the season. Yet despite seeing him take massive hit after massive hit, they kept him out there and kept throwing him the ball. In return, Edelman delivered with a career-best 179 receiving yards on eight catches.
Although Edelman and Harry (8 catches, 72 yards) both turned in big games, it was once again Damiere Byrd who saw the field the most of any of the Patriots wide receivers. Last week, he played 88-percent of the team’s snaps without being targeted once. This week he was targeted nine times while playing 86-percent of the offensive downs, totaling six catches for 72 yards.
Overall, the Patriots kept three wide receivers on the field (11 personnel) 69-percent of the time, a marked increase after using that package on less of half of their snaps in the opener.
At the running back position, Rex Burkhead carried the majority of the workload with James White unavailable. That’s a stark shift from Week 1, when Burkhead, White, and Sony Michel all saw the same amount of snaps (19, 30 percent).
In Week 2 without White and against a stronger defensive front, Burkhead’s usage soared to 71 percent. Not only did he absorb White’s role, but Michel’s usage dipped down to 21 percent (15 snaps), and rookie J.J. Taylor, despite a promising debut, was only used on one offensive play.
Ryan Izzo remains a staple of the Patriots offense. For the second week in a row, the Florida State product played the most snaps of any skill position player. Still, he only received two targets against the Seahawks, catching both for a total of 19 yards. His usage increase seems to be more tied to his blocking ability, something Bill Belichick credited him for working on extensively in the offseason.
Rookie tight end Devin Asiasi continues to be a non-factor despite a strong training camp, he played 10 snaps (14 percent) Sunday night with no targets.
Up front, the Patriots continued their rotation at right tackle with Jermaine Eluemunor and rookie Mike Onwenu. After a 75/25 split favoring Eluemunor in Week 1, Onwenu saw the field a bit more against Seattle. It was closer to a 70/30 ratio, with Onwenu playing a handful of additional snaps as a tackle-eligible sixth lineman, like he did against Miami.
Rookie Justin Herron saw five snaps as a part of the Patriots jumbo package, up from his two last week. Hjalte Froholdt once again only played on special teams.
Ja’Whaun Bentley played wire-to-wire Sunday night (63 snaps, 100 percent) after an 82-percent usage rate in Week 1. However, unlike Week 1, no other linebacker played more than half of the Patriots’ defensive downs.
In the opener, Shilique Calhoun was the second-most used linebacker – he was on the field 53-percent of the time. Against Seattle, Brandon Copeland was second behind Bentley with a 48-percent usage rate (30 snaps). That’s up from just 13 percent (eight snaps) in Week 1, the least of any Patriots’ defensive player. Calhoun meanwhile dropped all the way to 27-percent (17 snaps), although he was effective when he was on the field, recording a sack in the second quarter.
Rookie Anfernee Jennings was once again used sparingly, playing just two downs against Seattle after getting on the field for nine against Miami.
While the Patriots kept the clamps on their rookie linebacker, the training wheels came off for first-year safety Kyle Dugger. The Patriots top draft pick played 54-percent of the team’s defensive downs Sunday night (34 snaps), a significant increase from his limited role in the opener (11 snaps, 18 percent).
In turn, Terrence Brooks and Joejuan Williams saw their workloads significantly decrease. Neither played more than 10 snaps against Seattle, after playing 29 and 27 respectively against Miami. It will be interesting to see down the road if this was a byproduct of dealing with a shifty running quarterback like Russell Wilson, or if the Kyle Dugger Era has officially begun in New England.