Sunday 7: Patriots need to get more out of 2020 rookie class


1. Although it’s very early in the season, the Patriots need to get more out of their rookie class. Right now, it’s really just Kyle Dugger contributing on a regular basis. Linebackers Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings have been underwhelming with Uche not even playing in a single game and now landing on injured reserve with a foot injury. Jennings has been active for both games, but has only logged 11 total defensive snaps. On the other side of the ball, tight ends Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi haven’t done much, either. Keene has been battling a neck injury and hasn’t been active yet, while Asiasi doesn’t have a single catch and has only totaled 20 snaps. Other than Dugger, only sixth-round offensive lineman Michael Onwenu has contributed in any way. Given the losses this offseason and the state of the linebacker and tight end positions, the Patriots certainly expected at least some production from the rookies at these spots. Even though it’s just two games, it’s very clear the Patriots need more out of their rookie class.

2. After a rough showing against the Seahawks last Sunday night when it allowed five touchdown passes to Russell Wilson, the Patriots defense is already putting it in the past, at least according to Devin McCourty. "Just keep playing,” he said Friday. “I mean, there were stats that came up after [Thursday] like how many touchdowns we let up to a receiver -- we didn't even know any of that stuff. We just go out there and play, and obviously, Sunday night wasn't our best night. That's obvious. But that's not going to change our mentality, how we play, the competitiveness of the guys in this room. That's never going to change. And we know the end of the day, the only thing that needs to happen is we need to play better. We were in position. It's not like we just totally blow things. But that doesn't matter in this league. We've got to make plays.”

3. The Patriots could get some help on their active roster as soon as Monday. Running back Damien Harris, defensive tackle Beau Allen, wide receiver Gunner Olszewski and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste are all eligible to come off injured reserve and the team has an open roster spot. It’s hard to project which player is closest to returning, but if we had to guess it would be Olszewski.

4. It’s hard not to notice the difference in N’Keal Harry from last year to this year. Just listening to his teammates talk about him, it’s clear he’s made huge improvements from a year ago in a number of different ways, including just acting like a professional. Cam Newton has seemed to have taken him under his wing and based on the first two games, he seems to be in a good position for a breakout season.

5. Speaking of Newton, he continues to say all the right things since he joined the organization. During his weekly video conference, he detailed why wins are the most important statistic in sports. “Who cares about QBR? Who cares about total tackles? Who cares about yards after catch? Who cares about catches? Who cares about yards thrown? Who cares about yards rushed? Who cares how many touchdowns you threw, ran, or interceptions you got or whatever?,” Newton said. “From youth league, rec ball football, to high school, to college, to anything that requires you keeping score, the most important statistic is ‘Did you win? Or did you lose?’ And, yeah, he’s right. There is no moral victories. What did people expect? Honestly, what did you expect? We expect to compete to win. Not just to compete in each and every game. We’re coached that way. We practiced that way. We attack each day that way.”

6. One of the wild cards when it comes to the Patriots offense is wide receiver Damiere Byrd. The 27-year-old had a solid bounce-back game last week against Seattle after playing the most snaps of any receiver in Week 1, but yet not getting a single target. The offense desperately needs another option in the passing game besides Julian Edelman and Harry. Byrd could potentially be that player if he plays like he did last week, finishing with six catches for 72 yards. Playing 87 percent of the offensive snaps through two games, the opportunity is definitely there for him to make an impact.

7. Just like this week, the Patriots will catch a break next Sunday when they take on the Chiefs since Kansas City will be playing Baltimore on Monday Night Football. In terms of the players, it’s an advantage for the Patriots as they will have an extra day of rest. But, as the team saw this week, it’s tough on the coaching staff as they have to cram reviewing the Monday night game film on Tuesday. The Patriots will also catch a break as Arrowhead Stadium will only have roughly 22 percent capacity next Sunday afternoon. In a normal year, it’s one of the loudest stadiums in the league.