3 Players Bill Belichick, Patriots Need to Get More Involved Immediately
Dealing with a rash of injuries and breaking in a rookie quarterback, the Pats face an uphill battle for relevancy this season.
Not all is lost, though. Even against a team as dreadful as the Texans, a win is a win and Bill Belichick's team earned one last week. While the AFC East appears to be out of reach already, the battle for the final playoff spot could come down to teams floating around .500.
The Patriots could be one of them by the end of the season, but it might mean making some tweaks to the current rotations. There's more than one name who should be seeing a bigger role than they currently have.
At the very least, the Patriots should be seeing what they have in more than one player.
Edge Josh Uche
It's still a small sample size, but right now, Josh Uche's three sacks represent 23 percent of the team's total. Through five weeks of the season, he has been on the field for just 29.1 percent of the defensive snaps.
That's an equation that just doesn't make sense.
The second-year player out of Michigan has showcased the ability to win one-on-one pass-rush reps with regularity. He started the season by simply bulldozing Miami Dolphins left tackle Austin Jackson on the way to a sack and followed it up the next week by sacking Zach Wilson twice.
Yet, he only played 14 snaps against the Texans.
As a rookie, Uche posted the second-highest pass-rushing grade among first-year players, according to Pro Football Focus. He is again producing as a quarterback hunter, but the team needs to let him take his lumps as a run defender to get the most out of his development.
TE Jonnu Smith
The Patriots handed Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry mounds of cash in the offseason. Specifically, the former signed a four-year contract worth $50 million with a sizable $31.3 million in guaranteed money.
While Henry has developed a chemistry with Mac Jones and appears to be worth the investment, the same cannot be said for Smith. Some of that blame goes on the player. It's hard to shake his abysmal performance against the Saints in which he hauled in just one of his six targets for four yards.
However, the 26-year-old took responsibility for that game and has since caught five of the seven targets thrown his way.
Smith seems to have moved on from the game, but the Patriots' game plan hasn't. Adam Levitan of Establish the Run noted that he only ran six routes on 33 dropbacks for the Patriots against the Texans.
Despite spending all that money on two tight ends, the Pats are still middle of the road when it comes to 1-2 personnel (one running back with two tight ends). They utilize the grouping on just 24 percent of their snaps, per Sharp Football Stats.
That's not enough given the investment they've made. Allowing Smith to redeem himself would give the Patriots more flexibility on offense and Jones another target who can make plays.
DT Christian Barmore
Josh Uche isn't the only young guy on the defense who deserves a bigger role. Christian Barmore continues to prove his worth as a disruptive force on the interior of the defense.
The 22-year-old rookie has not put up the best counting stats. He has no sacks and just one quarterback hit while none of his 11 tackles have been for a loss.
However, according to Sports Info Solutions, Barmore has notched four hurries, three hits and a knockdown as a part-time player. That doesn't include the multiple holding penalties he has drawn, including two against the Texans on Sunday.
Right now, Barmore is playing around 50 percent of the defensive snaps. It puts him in a near-even time share with Lawrence Guy, who hasn't done much with his role.
At this point, the Patriots should be favoring the younger player with the higher upside. Allowing him to get after the quarterback and potentially wreaking havoc on the opposing team's run game would give the defense more potential.
All advanced statistics and snap counts via Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.