Patriots newcomer Eric Lee contributes with 25 snaps and sack

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Five days after being signed off the Buffalo Bills' practice squad, defensive end Eric Lee played 25 snaps in his NFL debut for the New England Patriots and finished with four tackles and one sack in the team's win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

As is often the case when a player joins the club during the season, the Patriots utilized Lee in a specific package, giving him one thing to focus on with a possibility to expand the role in the future. Lee played in obvious passing situations, which contributed to his higher-than-anticipated playing-time total because the Patriots opened a sizable lead in the second half.

“It’s always cool to see guys come in late in the season and see the work they put in, the coaching staff, to get a guy who just comes in ready to go by Sunday,” safety/captain Devin McCourty said. “Obviously, he did a great job of showing up and getting in there. That’s a credit to him and BD [defensive line coach Brendan Daly] of going over things and being ready to go when his number was called. I’m excited to see him. He’s been working his butt off since he got here.”

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Lee is a bit of a sturdier presence on the edge than the player he replaced, Cassius Marsh (6-foot-4, 245). That showed up on one of Trey Flowers' sacks when Lee powered into right tackle Sam Young, which didn’t give quarterback Matt Moore a chance to step up as Flowers finished him off.

Lee’s contributions lead off this week’s snap-count analysis:

Offense: 70

Defense: 61


Trey Flowers: 35

Deatrich Wise Jr.: 32

Eric Lee: 25

Flowers left the game with an injury to his ribs but spoke with reporters after the game, which could be viewed as a sign that the injury isn’t too serious. The Patriots have been thin at this position all season, and losing Flowers (91 percent playing time) for any period of time would be a tough blow to absorb.


Adam Butler: 33

Malcom Brown: 26

Alan Branch: 21

Lawrence Guy: 20

Ricky Jean Francois: 4

Brown returned from an ankle injury that had sidelined him three games and seemed to respond well. His return could make it hard for Jean Francois to stick on the 46-man game-day roster.


Kyle Van Noy: 51

Elandon Roberts: 34

Marquis Flowers: 21

David Harris: 21

Trevor Reilly: 12

Van Noy left the game in the fourth quarter with a leg injury, but the fact that he remained on the sideline until the end of the game is likely an indication it isn’t too serious. When Roberts and Harris play downhill, they create some pad-crunching collisions with their physicality.


Stephon Gilmore: 61

Malcolm Butler: 61

Jonathan Jones: 52

Gilmore’s interception late in the second quarter was one of the big plays in the game, and he almost had a second late in the game as his blanket coverage helped produce a Duron Harmon pick. Because Miami plays a lot of three-receiver packages, the Patriots primarily matched in their three-corner nickel package, with Jones -- an ascending player -- getting a lot of work in the slot.


Devin McCourty: 61

Patrick Chung: 61

Duron Harmon: 28

Jordan Richards: 12

Harmon’s 28 snaps are a season low as the team played the three-corner nickel with traditional safeties in McCourty and Chung.


LT Nate Solder: 70

LG: Joe Thuney: 70

C Ted Karras: 70

RG Shaq Mason: 67

RT LaAdrian Waddle: 58

RT Cameron Fleming: 12

RG Cole Croston: 3

Waddle left the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury and was replaced by Fleming. The injury looked significant enough that it could cost Waddle some time. Mason’s streak of playing every snap this season came to an end on the final three kneel-downs when he was replaced by Croston. Meanwhile, Solder’s turnaround has been impressive, as line coach Dante Scarnecchia noted it started around the Oct. 22 Atlanta game when he altered his pass-protection technique to be more proactive and play with more power through his hands and with his punch.


Dion Lewis: 28

Rex Burkhead: 28

James White: 18

The Patriots have a nice rhythm going with their three-back rotation, and here’s the key stat with Lewis: Through the first five games of the season, he averaged 12.8 snaps per game. Over the last six games, Lewis has averaged 26.6 snaps per game. The improvement of the Patriots’ running game over that span has been notable, and Lewis is a primary reason that is the case.


James Develin: 19

When the Patriots converted a fake punt after going three-and-out, Develin was on the field for three of the next four plays as the offense exploded for a quick score. That was an example of how when Develin is on the field, good things have been happening.


Rob GronkowskI: 64

Dwayne Allen: 38

Jacob Hollister: 8

Without Martellus Bennett (shoulder/hamstring), more was asked of Allen, and he is playing some of his best football in recent weeks.


Brandin Cooks: 62

Phillip Dorsett: 43

Danny Amendola: 39

Devin McCourty: 3

McCourty took over the Matthew Slater role of being back deep on the final three kneel-downs, which is why he had his first offensive snaps of the season. Cooks has played 91.9 percent of the offensive snaps on the season, as his availability (and production) has been vital. The coaching staff mixed its two-receive package between Cooks-Dorsett and Cooks-Amendola, with Amendola usually getting the nod in the red zone.


Tom Brady: 70

As Bill Belichick said after the game, there was never any thought about taking him out of the game.