Looking at what happened on Sunday, it’s hard not to wonder if the Patriots are going to make some tough decisions as it pertains to both wide receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and DeVante Parker.
Smith-Schuster was obviously inactive again on Sunday as he continues recovering from a concussion, while Parker played just 35 snaps and saw only one target. That came on the final drive, with Parker hauling in one ball for 8 yards, and his presence may only even have been due to Kendrick Bourne’s fumble on the previous series.
Aside from the turnover, Bourne had been coming on as of late. He and Jones are seemingly starting to get on the same page, and the numbers for the last two weeks certainly reflect that.
Through the first five games of the season, Jones completed 18-of-33 (54%) for 218 yards and two touchdowns when targeting Bourne. In the last two weeks, he’s completed 16-of-18 (89.9%) for 152 yards and a touchdown while looking in Bourne’s direction, including 6-of-7 (85.7%) for 63 yards and his touchdown against Buffalo.
But the most notable change has been the ascension of Demario Douglas, who continues to really be the club’s lone explosive playmaker on offense. He returned to the line-up Sunday after sitting out last week due to a concussion and finished with 4 catches for 54 yards.
Overall, he was just outstanding. The rookie had one catch on Sunday where he shifted gears and spun one defender around, and the diving 19-yard reception he made midway through the fourth quarter to set up Bourne’s touchdown was just an absolutely terrific play. Douglas caught that one fully extended, which put the ball at the Buffalo 4-yard line.
Two plays later, Bourne took it into the end zone and finished the drive, which kept the heat on the Bills by giving New England a 22-10 advantage.
Bill Belichick actually praised the rookie during his appearance on WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Monday, noting that play, and he was clearly impressed.
“I thought the catch he made down at the goal line at the end of the game was a really good catch,” said Belichick. “That was a tough play to make. You know, he extended and made a good catch. Nice game for him.”
Douglas played in 37 snaps on Sunday, his highest total of the season and his highest total since he played 33 in Week 1. Prior to Sunday, his largest total since that Eagles game had been 18, which came in their loss to Dallas in Week 4.
Meanwhile, Kayshon Boutte was inactive for the sixth-straight game on Sunday, with Jaylen Reagor seeing an increase in playing time after being active for the second-straight week.
Reagor played in 14 snaps last weekend and saw that increase to 25 Sunday, with the receiver hauling in his first pass of the season, which was an 11-yard grab during their first drive of the third quarter on a 2nd-and-5 from their own 30. That one moved the chains and got them out just past the 40-yard line and helped play a role in the eventual 49 yard field goal by Chad Ryland.
But one interesting thing that stood out is the fact that Tyquan Thorton didn’t see the field much on Sunday. He saw just three offensive snaps against Buffalo, one week removed from seeing 25 snaps last week in Las Vegas. Thornton ended the day with one catch for 2 yards, which is another outing where he’s seemingly struggling to establish a role for himself.
Meanwhile, prior to his injury, Smith-Schuster had already seen a reduction in playing time. After playing in 43, 44, and 53 snaps in the first three weeks, his snap total dropped to 26 and 27 the next two weeks prior to the two games he’s been out since then.
Clearly, the Patriots are trying to find a combination of players who can help them move the chains and put up points, and it’s going to be interesting to see how this continues to affect both his and Parker’s playing time in the coming weeks.
(Editor’s Note: Portions of the above appeared in this morning’s news and notes column.)
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary