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These Patriots Players Are Seriously Deprived Of Playing Time In The 2022 Season

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Jan 2, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) reacts after a touchdown by running back Damien Harris (37) during the first half against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

With ten games already played by the Patriots, let’s analyze four players who are disappointing fans and critics alike.

Damien Harris

The three-year elusive running back has yet to see much playing time this season. Belicheck has instead opted to give most of the playing time to more extensive and more power rush player Rhamondre Stevenson. Stevenson has been rostered for roughly 96% of Patriots games this season, demonstrating apparent ability on the ground and in the air.

This season, Stevenson has garnered more significant stats, accumulating 644 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He’s been Belicheck’s go-to rusher but also contains a unique ability on the ground. In the air, Stevenson has exemplified positive stats, already having 283 yards on 41 receptions. That’s more than some of the receivers in the depth chart!

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Despite Stevenson’s apparent ability as New England’s number-one receiver, fans should hope to see Harris make more appearances in the offense. With only being rostered 61% of the time, Harris has produced 367 rushing yards and three touchdowns, enormous stats for a player that usually only gets five to ten rushing attempts per game. While Stevenson has proved himself an adept pass catcher, Harris has remained fixated on the run game. Harris has shown exceptional elusiveness and speed, allowing him to make huge plays against a slow-moving defense easily.

Harris should continue to get opportunities on the ground after notching his highest rushing yardage total since Week 4. An elusive back like Harris can prove costly to a majority of the defenses in the league. With his speed and elusiveness, it’s shocking to see Harris not being rostered as often as Stevenson.

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Jonnu Smith

When will Jonnu Smith become the tight end that the New England Patriots expected when they gave him a sizable free-agent contract?

Through Week 9 of the 2022 NFL season, there have been a few glances, but Patriots supporters haven’t seen the kind of weapon the team believed it had been granted. Further, Smith and Hunter Henry’s tight-end tandem has yet to live up to the hype. As I mentioned in previous articles, Hunter Henry, the Patriots preferred tight end, has been unable to excel to the extent of his performance last year.

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Henry has been on the field for most of the snaps but has been unable to procure much for the Patriot’s offense. Through ten weeks, he’s accumulated an underwhelming 260 yards, ranking him 100th in the league for receiving yards. This statistic implies that backup tight ends on other teams have consistently outperformed Henry.

Despite receiving the shorter end of the stick when it comes to playing time, Smith has been able to be more involved in the game. In a match that proved horrible for both offenses, Smith accumulated 40 yards on four receptions. In addition, he’s shown steady hands, catching 75% of all passes.

Getting Smith more involved would be a decision that could prove crucial in a suffering offense. Smith has exemplified the ability of a starting role, so let’s hope to see him rostered more in the games to follow.

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Josh Uche

The 24-year-old linebacker, whose time with the Patriots has been plagued by injuries, only managed five sacks in the first 26 games of his time with the team. However, over the last two weeks, he has equaled that total, including a three-sack hat trick in Sunday’s defensively dominant 26-3 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium. Additionally, according to Pro Football Focus, he has four or more quarterback pressures in each of his last three games after only accomplishing that feat twice prior.

This pass-rush explosion came after a dry spell in which Uche, a key member of New England’s third-down defense, managed just one quarterback hit between Week 3 of the previous campaign and Week 7 of the current one.

In his third pro season, the Patriots have also handed Uche more duties. Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Jamie Collins, three seasoned ‘backers, were lost this offseason, so Belichick gave Uche the responsibility of leading the pass-rush subpackage for New England on the field.

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Despite a poor performance against the Jets, where Uche recorded no pressures or tackles, many, including myself, remain confident that his performance against the Colts was no one-time thing. Assuming Uche can be given more playing time, we’ll see him emerge as one of the league’s best pass rushers in no time.

Jabrill Peppers

With three starting safety players returning from last season’s squad and Josh Bledsoe, a second-year player who saw significant action early in the summer, the Patriots’ depth at safety was evident from the beginning of training camp.

One of the most crucial and scheme-defining positions in New England, Jabrill Peppers, started to come on later as he recovered from an injury, giving the team five choices to consider. It initially seemed like there might be too many bodies, but it is now apparent how vital and significant that depth can be.

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Peppers, the 25th overall pick in 2017 out of Michigan, played in just six games with the Giants in 2021 due to a season-ending knee injury. However, he signed a one-year contract with the organization this summer and has long been an intriguing schematic fit for the Patriots’ gameplan defense.

At the time, there was no prominent place for him, but Peppers’ moment of glory arrived when injuries occurred. He first showed signs of the talent that made him so highly rated coming out of college on Sunday against the Jets. Against the Jets, Peppers recorded five solo tackles, which were also the most on his team, and a team-high four stops.

According to Pro Football Reference, Peppers has only seen approximately 57.6% of the game on the field. This playing time for an aggressive safety that has already accumulated 21 solo tackles and 14 assists is seriously concerning.

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