Through four games, it’s safe to say the uncertainty surrounding the Patriots 2020 season will continue to be a major storyline moving forward. Despite all the craziness, the 2-2 Patriots still find themselves solidly in the mix with 25% of the season in the bag. Earlier in the week, we graded each Patriots position group (which you can read here), but in our newest article, we wanted to focus on the performances of a few individual players.
Which Patriots are trending up? Which Patriots are trending down? We’ll answer both those questions in our latest Patriots stock report.
Cam Newton has been a perfect fit for New England and it’s been on full display through his first three games as a Patriot. Whether it’s Josh McDaniels dialing up quarterbacks runs, as he did against the Dolphins, or Newton exhibiting a strong passing connection with Julian Edelman, which they showed against the Seahawks, it’s clear that Newton adds a layer of versatility to the offense. This versatility makes it hard for defenses to prepare for the Patriots offense. Defenses can’t just gameplan for one or two things. The Newton-led offense can attack defenses in a multitude of ways.
As for Newton being unable to play against the Chiefs, in our eyes, Newton’s absence only raised his stock. Missing Week 4 showed just how important he is to the success of the Patriots’ offense.
The rise of rookie sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu has been incredible. Onwenu has been one of the best guards in the entire NFL since entering the starting lineup in Week 3. Even before Onwenu became a starter, due to David Andrews’ injury, the Patriots went out of their way to get Onwenu on the field in jumbo packages. That should tell you all you need to know about how the Patriots feel about the rookie guard. Just watch Onwenu (#71) maul the linebacker (#54) and open up a huge hole for Rex Burkhead.
The big question that will likely need to be answered soon, is what happens with Onwenu when Andrews and Shaq Mason come back from injury? Onwenu is almost playing too good to take out of the lineup. That being said, the starting offensive line doesn’t have a lot of weak spots, particularly at guard with Joe Thuney and Mason. Regardless of what happens the rest of this season, one thing is for sure; Onwenu has a very bright future.
Chase Winovich has been very impressive in his expanded role this season. Every week it seems Winovich is making game-changing plays. He’s been particularly dominant in the pass rush. Through four games, Winovich has 2.5 sacks and 13 pressures. He’s by far the Patriots most efficient pass rusher. Even when Winovich doesn’t finish the play with a sack, he always seems to be causing mayhem for opposing quarterbacks.
Chase Winovich has been an incredible playmaker this season— Pats Buzz (@PatsBuzz) October 8, 2020
The future of the New England pass-rush is very very bright 🔥🔥🔥pic.twitter.com/6pswjJTeKh
The biggest question surrounding Winovich coming into the season was his run defense. While he hasn’t been great in that department, he has shown flashes of promising run defense. He has three tackles for loss this season. The next step for Winovich is becoming consistently good against the run. Until that happens, we’ll continue to see him used more on pass downs. Even with his ups and downs against the run, Winovich has had a great start to the season and his big second-year leap is no doubt in progress.
Deatrich Wise Jr.
Deatrich Wise is playing really good football this season. A lot of people, including us, were a little down on Wise entering the season mainly due to his fit with the Patriots defense. Wise lost playing time in recent years due to a poor schematic fit and a lack of effective run defense.
Forutnently for Wise, his playing time has seen an increase this season, and rightfully so, he’s now a much better fit and he has played excellently. One of the keys in Wise becoming a better fit for the defense was his commitment to putting on weight this offseason. The extra weight has helped him fare much better on the inside against the run. Watching his 2020 film against the run and comparing it to where he was at just last season is staggering. He has improved a ton in that aspect. Just watch Wise (#91) in the clip below. He holds his gap and makes a great run stop.
As for as his pass rush, Wise has always been impressive. He can be a pass-rushing force from that defensive line spot.
Jakobi Meyers already had a falling stock after a poor training camp, but here he is yet again in our stock down section. Meyers isn’t on here for poor play, he’s on here because he can’t find his way onto the field. In four games Meyers has only played 22 snaps. When Meyers does finally get a chance at significant snaps, he needs to seize the opportunity, otherwise, it’s fair to question how many more opportunities he’ll get. The Patriots seem to value Damiere Byrd and Gunner Olszewski over Meyers.
Sony Michel hasn’t played bad football this season, in fact, he looked really good last time he was out on the field. He rushed for 117 yards on 9 carries against the Raiders.
Unfortunately, the injury bug struck following the Raiders matchup and Michel was placed on the injured reserve. This led to Damien Harris getting a lead-back opportunity in Week 4 against the Chiefs and he fully delivered. Harris rushed for 100 yards on 17 carries. If Harris can continually deliver those kinds of results with Michel on IR, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots keep Harris off the field when Michel comes back. At the very least, Michel and Harris would likely split the early-down responsibilities. If they split snaps, the question then becomes how that affects James White, Burkhead, and J.J. Taylor. When Michel comes back the running back room will be very crowded.
With Ja’Whuan Bentley being one of the only inside linebackers on the Patriots’ roster it was a given that he would have an expanded role this season, the question was how would he perform? So far it hasn’t been great. At times, Bentley’s lack of speed has been very noticeable. He’s also not standing out in run defense, which is considered to be his specialty. Bentley has 20 total tackles, but no tackles for loss and a couple of missed tackles.
Another statistic that seemed relevant was Bentley’s pass rush statistics. Yes, inside linebackers don’t pass rush a ton, but they do blitz, and according to Pro Football Reference, Bentley has blitzed 11 times this year and he is yet to register a single pressure. With that being said, it’s important to note the significant leadership role that Bentley has undertaken this season. The impact of his leadership is immeasurable. Plus, we’re only four games in, Bentley can bounce back from a bad start.
We were really high on Adam Butler coming into the season. Sadly, he hasn’t YET made the type of impact we were expecting. Butler, always known as a pass rusher, is still playing a huge chunk of his snaps on passing downs. We thought he’d see a little bump in snaps against the run but that hasn’t been the case. It’s hard to really evaluate his run defense with so little snaps.
The biggest surprise when watching Butler has been his lack of dominance in the pass rush. Butler has only two pressures on the season. Overall, when watching his tape, we just haven’t season him as disruptive against opposing offensive lines as we did last season. He’s not necessarily playing bad, but we expected him to stand out a little more in a contract year. Although, as with every player on this list, Butler still has time to turn it around. Butler is someone to watch moving forward.