After missing eight games to a calf injury suffered in the first quarter of the season opener against Miami, Trent Brown returned to his starting job at right tackle in last Sunday’s blowout win over the Browns.
Brown played a rotational role against Cleveland, playing 46 snaps (69 percent), while Michael Onwenu continued to see action at the spot where he started three games this season and 10 a year ago as a rookie.
But in Thursday night’s impressive win over the Falcons in Atlanta, Brown not only started at right tackle once again but played essentially every snap, logging 62 plays (97 percent) against the Falcons.
Meanwhile, Onwenu played just five snaps (8 percent), including reps as a tight end.
The rest of the New England offensive line, including Ted Karras at the left guard spot where Onwenu had started four games to open the season, all played all 64 snaps (100 percent) in the win.
Heading into the mini-bye week following the Thursday night game, it will be interesting to see what the line lineup looks like when New England takes the field against the Titans after Thanksgiving. Will Karras remain a starter at left guard to keep the continuity going that’s led to plenty of rushing success in recent weeks? Will Onwenu remain in a backup role? Could Onwenu go back to left guard, New England reverting to the starting lineup it used on opening day?
The Patriots seemingly have six starting-caliber offensive linemen at this point for just five jobs. It’s obviously a good “problem” to have and they’ll all probably play a key role for the team at some point and some position over the final seven weeks of the regular season.
Beyond Brown returning to his full-time role at right tackle and Onwenu filling a reserve role for now, here are some other notes from the Patriots snap counts in Thursday’s road win in Atlanta:
--With David Andrews playing all 64 offensive snaps in Atlanta, along with Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, Karras and Mac Jones, the New England center has played every snap on offense for the Patriots through 11 games this season.
--Jakobi Meyers led skill position players with 56 snaps (88 percent) in Atlanta, followed closely by fellow wide receiver Nelson Agholor with 49 snaps (77 percent).
--Fullback Jakob Johnson logged the most snaps at the running back position with 26 (41 percent). Johnson has now played 20-plus snaps in each of the last six games after not reaching that plateau once in the first five weeks. New England is now 5-1 when Johnson plays 20-plus snaps.
--Damien Harris returned to action after missing the Browns game to a concussion, the lead back splitting the reps and the load in Atlanta. Harris played 25 snaps (39 percent), while rookie Rhamondre Stevenson was on the field for 22 snaps (34 percent) as the two runners basically alternated series. Harris had 10 carries for 56 yards while Stevenson ran the ball 12 times for 69 yards. Each caught one pass.
--N’Keal Harry (26 snaps, 41 percent) was just behind Kendrick Bourne (29 snaps, 45 percent) for third-most among receivers. Bourne had the bigger role as a pass catcher, hauling in all four balls thrown his way for 42 yards. Harry, who’s been used more as a blocker, did catch two passes on two targets for 14 yards and had a nice jet sweep gain wiped out by a holding penalty.
--Much like the running back position, tight ends Hunter Henry (32 snaps, 50 percent) and Jonnu Smith (33 snaps, 52 percent) logged almost identical playing time. Henry had two catches for 25 yards, while Smith had one for 17.
--New England’s defense was on the field for 54 snaps in Atlanta, tying a season-low thanks in large part to the unit’s four fourth-quarter interceptions including two in a two-play span and three over the course of just five Falcons offensive plays.
--Devin McCourty led the way with 53 snaps (98 percent).
--Matt Judon had the most snaps among non-defensive backs with 45 (83 percent). Judon notched a sack, giving him a career-high 10.5 on the season with six games left to play.
--Dont’a Hightower played 42 snaps (78 percent), the veteran linebacker’s highest playtime percentage since Week 2. Hightower finished second on the team with seven tackles in Atlanta.
--As has been the case for the last month-plus, rookie Christian Barmore led defensive linemen in playing time with 34 snaps (63 percent). The second-round pick has now played at least 63 percent of snaps in each of the last five games, all New England wins.
--Shaun Wade made his Patriots debut with four snaps (7 percent) on defense and another three in the kicking game.
--Chase Winovich returned to the active roster from IR and played 5 defensive snaps (9 percent) against the Falcons, adding 10 plays on special teams.
--Bill Belichick talked about the depth of his defense and rotating of players after the big win, as shown by the fact that New England had 16 players on defense log at least 31 percent of the snaps in Atlanta.
--Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Brandon King and Cody Davis paced the core special teams players with 18 snaps in the kicking game.
Brandon Bolden, Calvin Munson and Jahlani Tavai were next with 16 special teams snaps.
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