Almost every aspect of Belichick’s performance as a coach and general manager has been questioned over the past three weeks, and one of the most recent issues that have been raised is his handling of second-year-pro Chase Winovich’s playing time.
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Winovich’s Snap Count is Way Down
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What's Up With Chase Winovich's snaps? He played only 5 on Sunday? With team struggling on the LB unit, why is he being used as a pure pass rusher only? #Patriots #NewEnglandPatriots #CamNewton #StephonGilmore #DevinMcCourty #JasonMcCourty #JoshMcDaniels #JCJackson #LawrenceGuy #ChaseWinovich #JoshUche #KyleDugger #JoeThuney #JamesWhite #DamienHarris #JarrettStidham #AdamButler #JJTaylor #DevinAsiasi #DaltonKeene #JulianEdelman #NKealHarry #GunnerOlszewski #DavidAndrews #BillBelichick #isaiahzuber #MasonKinsey #AFC #NFL
During the first four weeks of the season, Winovich played in no less than 54 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. Over the last three, that number has dipped to 34, 20 and nine percent in Sunday’s loss to the Buffalo Bills.
What gives? Many in the media are asking valid questions.
Chase Winovich played 68%, 75%, 54% and 66% of the snaps in the first four weeks. He had 2.5 sacks and six QB hits.
He’s played 34%, 20% and 9% of the snaps over the last three games. The Patriots have four sacks total in that span.
Winovich still leads the Pats in sacks. 🤷♂️
— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) November 2, 2020
Patriots defensive snaps vs. Bills:
🏈 Just 5 for OLB Chase Winovich, reflective of coaches not viewing him as a 3-down player. Used in niche passing situations.
🏈 LB Josh Uche (12) with 1 tackle/1 QB hit in debut.
🏈 Zero for LB Anfernee Jennings after struggles vs. 49ers. pic.twitter.com/Bd5xTtKEQ3
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 2, 2020
Chase Winovich played two snaps in the first half. Just two. #Patriots
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) November 1, 2020
So the Patriots were playing a lighter box, essentially daring the Bills to run. They were asking their DL and LBs to hold up vs. run despite being outnumbered. By not having Chase Winovich on the field, coaches essentially are saying, "We don't think this is his strength." (2/2)
— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) November 2, 2020
Statistics Say He Should Be on the Field
Belichick appears to view Winovich as a pass-rushing specialist only, but the team hasn’t suffered against the run statistically with him on the field.
CLNS’ Evan Lazar posted some numbers prior to Winovich’s limited playing time on Sunday that suggests the team has been better against the run with the Michigan alum on the field.
So on/off stats are always a little iffy, but the #Patriots are allowing -0.08 EPA/Play with Chase Winovich on the field. Without Wino, it rises to 0.06.
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) October 28, 2020
You have to take these kinds of stats with a grain of salt, but there is some credence to such large disparities in the on/off numbers.
Despite Winovich’s declining playing time, he still leads the team in sacks with 2.5. That’s an indictment on Belichick and the rest of the Patriots’ pass rushers.
Winovich Staying Positive, and Indirectly Addresses Decreased Playing Time
How is Winovich handling his decreasing playing time?
He’s handling it publicly quite well. He posted some words of encouragement for himself and teammates after Sunday’s loss.
Easy to have faith when Lady Fortuna is favorable! How about when the chips are low? How about when the rain is cold? Welcoming this opportunity to grow as any other 🦻🏻👨🏼🎓🏋🏼🤺🧗🏼🧘🏼🏩
— Chase Winovich (@Wino) November 2, 2020
Belichick Answers Direct Questions About Winovich’s Playing Time
During Belichick’ regular session with the media on Monday afternoon, he was asked directly about Winovich’s playing time.
Belichick downplayed it and attributed it to situational football.
“It’s been situational,” Belichick said. “He’ll play. He’s a good player. Some weekly decisions based on game-plans and so forth.”
With the Patriots struggling to stop the run and get to opposing quarterbacks on a regular basis, it’s a little puzzling that a player with as much upside as Winovich isn’t getting more time to make plays.
The offense needs as much field-position help as possible, and Winovich’s ability to get in the backfield for sacks or to force turnovers would seemingly be an element you’d want on the field as much as possible.
Perhaps he’ll see a spike in playing time this week against the New York Jets.
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