By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots offense authored a lot of encouraging new stories about the 2020 season on Monday night. They executed in crunch time, engineered a clutch comeback, and didn’t lose a fumble or throw an interception for the first time all season. And they’ve also entrenched a clear new No. 1 wide receiver.
As the snap counts bear out from Monday’s 30-27 win over the Jets, Patriots wideout Jakobi Meyers is the obvious go-to option now for Cam Newton. Damiere Byrd once again led all receivers in snaps, but that’s largely been a function of how much he’s used in the running game. Meyers has emerged as much more of a factor in the passing game, and now the Pats can barely afford to take him off the field.
Meyers’ lone offensive snap missed came on a jet sweep with Gunner Olszewski in “21” personnel, the Patriots’ favorite grouping on the night (2 RBs, 1 TE, 2 WRs). Meyers made seven of his 12 catches out of that package as the Pats succeeded on both the ground and through the air.
Patriots Snap Counts vs Jets
Here’s how the total snaps broke down for every WR/TE/RB against the Jets.
Damiere Byrd: 79
Jakobi Meyers: 78
Ryan Izzo: 74
Jakob Johnson: 44
Gunner Olszewski: 35
Rex Burkhead: 34
Damien Harris: 27
James White: 20
Korey Cunningham: 3
Kristian Wilkerson: 1
Burkhead led the Patriots backfield with 34 snaps and 15 total touchers (12 carries, three catches). Damien Harris got the carry on 14 of his 27 snaps. He was on the field for 10 of the Pats’ 18 pass plays in “21” personnel.
The Patriots ran “21” personnel more than any other grouping for just the second time all season. And they were fairly unpredictable, despite a lack of depth and an inability to mix up the personnel much at receiver or tight end. In all, the Pats ran on just 59.1 percent of snaps in “21,” a relatively low rate.
21 personnel: 44 snaps (55.7 percent)
11 personnel: 33 snaps (41.8 percent)
20 personnel: 2 snaps (2.5 percent)
Running & Passing:
21 personnel: 59.1 percent running (26-of-44)
11 personnel: 60.6 percent passing (20-of-33)
20 personnel: 50/50 split (1 run, 1 pass)
If the Patriots want to keep defenses guessing in any way, shape, or form, they may have to continue leaning into “21” personnel. Their run game has been humming out of that grouping, and Meyers is emerging as a real threat in two-receiver sets.
What’d They Do About Tight End?
The Patriots worked around their tight end situation by simply running Ryan Izzo out there most snaps, as Izzo was the only traditional TE active. But they also used tackle Korey Cunningham as an extra blocking tight end on three plays, one of which resulted in a 33-yard catch by Meyers that set up an early Newton touchdown.
Jakob Johnson also played outside of his usual fullback role. He lined up as a tight end four times – three times in-line and once split out wide. Johnson was also sent in motion on one snap. He finished with two catches for six yards, and if you count that for tight ends, that’s all they got for production out of that position Monday night.
The big question, however, is how much of this game was simply the product of a bad opponent. The Jets are now 0-9 and effectively tanking the season, and they’re less talented on defense than they are on offense. The offense will need to keep things rolling and continue to play a clean game in terms of turnovers, and they’ll need to prove they can do it against better competition to inspire more confidence that they’ll go on a run in the second half of the season.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff or send him a nasty email at email@example.com.