New England

The New England Patriots: An Embarrassment of Riches

As evidenced by outscoring their opponents, 76-3, through two games, the 2019 version of the New England Patriots are pretty darn good.

The team is filled with talent all over the roster and equipped with enough depth to overcome just about anything the football gods throw their way.

The Patriots are so loaded, however, that there's not enough room for everyone to be active on game days. While every NFL team has 53 spots on its active roster, only 46 can dress for a game.

Facing the numbers crunch, Deatrich Wise Jr. was inactive in the regular season for the first time in his three-year NFL career last Sunday in Miami. Wise, the lone member of New England's active roster still remaining from its 2017 draft class, played in the team's season opener against Pittsburgh, recording a sack and forcing a fumble.

"Everybody who plays the game wants to play," Wise said at his locker on Wednesday. "A series of unfortunate events happened where I didn't play, it is what it is. We're moving forward to the Jets."

As the team moves towards more of a 3-4 base defense, Wise has lost out on reps to rookie Chase Winovich and John Simon along the edge. Winovich was credited with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for a loss vs. the Dolphins on Sunday and Simon chipped in with a sack and pass defense.

New England defensive line coach Bret Bielema, who coached Wise at Arkansas for four seasons, was effusive in his praise of the former Razorback on Friday, noting there are days he'll show up to the team facility at 5 a.m. and Wise would already be there, either working out or watching film.

Despite that work ethic, not to mention the fact that Wise didn't appear on any of New England's injury reports last week, he found himself on the bench in the Miami heat.

"For him, and for us in general, it's being versatile enough to play a variety of different roles," Bielema said. "He was engaged in all the meetings and he's had a really good week of practice this week, so I haven't seen it affect him negatively."

Undrafted rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers also sat out the 43-0 romp of the Dolphins on Sunday, just a week after playing in his NFL debut vs. the Steelers. Meyers had one catch for 22 yards against Pittsburgh, but as expected, the addition of Antonio Brown had a trickle-down effect on the depth chart.

"I've been in worse positions in my life," Meyers said of being inactive, before the Patriots released Brown. "It's still a blessing to be here. I'm going to soak it up every day and whenever they call me, I've got to make sure I'm ready. If I'm spending time thinking about my name not being called, I'm not going to be ready when it is."

Meyers figures to be back in the lineup with Brown out of the picture.

Running back Damien Harris, drafted by the Patriots in the third round in April, is still waiting to make his first appearance in a regular season game.

"No one wants to be inactive, but he understands that he's looking at four pretty good players," running backs coach Ivan Fears said of Harris, referencing James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden.

Harris couldn't crack the lineup against Miami even with Bolden sidelined due to injury, though as Fears pointed out, the Patriots like to spread the ball around. The game plan against Miami featured more opportunities for the receiving corps, in part to get Brown further acclimated with the offense.

Eventually, all of these players will be given a chance to enter – or re-enter – the starting lineup. It's all about staying prepared in the meantime.

"You can't carry everybody," Fears said. “[Harris] has got to find his niche. When he gets it, he's got to make it happen."

A cautionary tale from just last season is Duke Dawson, who spent the first half of the season on injured reserve before returning to the 53-man roster. Dawson could never crack the 46-man game day lineup upon his return, however, and despite his pedigree as a 2018 second round draft pick, was jettisoned prior to the beginning of the 2019 regular season.

Part of the reason Dawson now finds himself in Denver is due to the drafting of Joejuan Williams in the second round last April. Williams, who, at 6-foot-3, projects as an imposing figure in the secondary, is still waiting his turn to take the field as well.

Williams is taking the correct approach when it comes to waiting his turn, absorbing whatever he can from the veterans on New England's roster.

"At the end of the day, I'm just trying to soak in any information I can get from the older guys," Williams said. "Whatever the coach wants, I'll be ready when my name is called."

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