Our first impression of the Patriots 2022 rookie class was one to forget in the season-opening loss to the Dolphins. Week two in Pittsburgh provided a better outlook and especially showcased the reason why the team drafted guard Cole Strange in the first round. Here’s how Strange and the rest of the rookies performed in Sunday’s victory over the Steelers.
Cole Strange, A-
Strange had the best day of his two-game career thus far, especially in the area in which he excels: the running game. According to Next Gen Stats, the Patriots were able to run the ball 20 times for 103 yards, and their lone touchdown behind the left side of the line which includes Strange and left tackle Trent Brown. After they took over with 6:33 left, the Patriots did not relinquish possession of the ball, as they iced the game on the ground, another testament to Strange and the line.
Against a very good pass rush (albeit one without reigning Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt), Strange and the rest of the line kept quarterback Mac Jones clean, as he was not sacked and only hit once. In week one, the Steelers sacked Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow seven times and applied 20 hits. On the field for all 68 snaps, Strange was also the lone offensive lineman who did not commit a penalty.
Jack Jones, B
Jones saw double the amount of action Sunday, as he was on the field for 22 defensive snaps (37%) after only seeing action for 11 against Miami. Jones was not targeted in the passing game but stepped up to make two tackles against the run. However, on one of those tackles, Jones was dragged an extra five yards by receiver Gunner Olszewski after initial contact.
Pierre Strong Jr., C-
With Ty Montgomery placed on IR, Strong was active for the first time this season, and there was anticipation that he might be able to take some of the snaps Montgomery saw last week. However, the team relied more on Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson as Strong only saw three snaps on offense, in which he did not carry the ball or get targeted in the passing game.
Strong’s contribution mainly came on special teams, as he was sent out to return kickoffs in the second half after Kyle Dugger had to leave with a knee injury. On Strong’s first return, he decided against taking a knee and instead ran the ball out of the endzone, before getting tackled at the 17-yard line, a negative play in terms of net yardage. His second attempt went much better as he fielded the kick at the two-yard line before returning it 26 yards. We’ll see if he is incorporated more in the offense over the next few weeks until Montgomery returns.
Brenden Schooler, B+
The undrafted free agent made one of the bigger plays of the day, when he was able to recover a muffed punt by Olszewski late in the third quarter. The Patriots were able to score three plays later to take a 17-6 lead.
Inactives: Bailey Zappe, Marcus Jones, Chasen Hines, Sam Roberts