Demario Douglas is still stuck at the bottom of the Patriots’ pecking order
Demario Douglas continues to have trouble seeing the field for the New England Patriots.
And yet, the dynamic rookie wide receiver was somehow trusted to catch the ball in a handful of key situations during the Patriots’ 15-10 over the New York Jets on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. But Douglas still ended up playing only 17 offensive snaps (24 percent), the lowest total of anyone on the team. Even third-string tight end Pharaoh Brown, who albeit made the game’s single biggest catch, played more (25 snaps).
Despite Douglas’ limited playing time, he popped up at crucial points in the game. He ended up with just one catch for 15 yards on three targets, but the lone reception was a third-down conversion that immediately preceded the Pats’ only touchdown. One of his other targets also came on third down but didn’t connect. He also took a toss out of the backfield for a five-yard gain on second-and-8.
Douglas’ third target came near the end of the first half, when Mac Jones took one last deep shot at the end zone before the Patriots eventually kicked a field goal. And the Jets’ Michael Carter II got away with an obvious pass interference penalty (see the above photo), potentially weaseling another offensive touchdown off the board.
Jones obviously trusts Douglas in big spots, based on the times he chose to throw the ball his way. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien trusted Douglas enough to put him on the field on key third downs and big plays in the first place. But where’s the trust to play the kid more in general?
Douglas’ talent pops off the screen whenever he touches the ball, which is fitting for a rookie with the nickname “Pop.” And it becomes more glaring when you contrast Douglas with that of his teammates that are still getting significantly more playing time. Kendrick Bourne is exempt after making four tough catches for 46 yards, one of which converted a third down.
But DeVante Parker (55 snaps) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (53 snaps) caught a combined 3-of-6 targets for 24 yards. Douglas almost matched their production, in one fewer touch. On top of that, Smith-Schuster committed an illegal blindside block on the first play of a third-quarter drive, immediately putting the Patriots in a first-and-20 hole. They eventually punted.
You’d think that part of the thought process in putting a veteran on the field over a rookie is that they’d have more discipline and avoid those mistakes. Smith-Schuster is more trusted to block right now, but he didn’t do his job as well as he could’ve on Sunday.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick obviously trusts veterans more than rookies in general. No surprise there. But wide receiver is a position where that approach can hurt you. It’s hurting the Patriots right now.
It was good to see Douglas get an uptick in playing time and to get targeted in clutch situations, but he still needs to play more than he’s been. Belichick needs to play his best guys if he wants to score more points. Playing Douglas a lot more feels like it’s best for the team right now.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Check out all of Matt’s content here.