Chase Winovich's lack of playing time is puzzling when you consider how lackluster the New England Patriots pass rush has been throughout the 2020 NFL season.
The 2019 third-round draft pick played only two snaps in the first half of Sunday's Week 8 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He finished the game having played just five defensive snaps. All five came in obvious passing situations on third down.
What's been the cause of Winovich's decreasing snap count?
"Yeah, just been situational," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said in his Monday video press conference. "He’ll play. He’s a good player. He’ll play."
When asked if anything changed from the beginning of the season to now, Belichick responded, "Just some weekly decisions based on game plans and so forth."
Winovich tallied 2.5 sacks in the first four games of the season when he played a normal amount of snaps. His playing time has decreased quite a bit beginning with the Week 6 game against the Denver Broncos.
Here's his defensive snap count for each game, per Pro Football Reference:
Week 1 vs. MIA: 42 (68 percent) Week 2 vs. SEA: 47 (75 percent) Week 3 vs. LVR: 32 (54 percent) Week 4 vs. KC: 37 (66 percent) Week 6 vs. DEN: 22 (34 percent) Week 7 vs. SF: 13 (20 percent) Week 8 vs. BUF: Five (nine percent)
The Patriots pass rush is bad. New England's 10 sacks are tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Winovich leads the team in sacks and QB hits despite the fact he's hardly played over the last three weeks. Shilique Calhoun is the only other Patriots player with more than 1.5 sacks. Sacks aren't the only way to grade a pass rush, but it's not like the Patriots have a ton of better options than Winovich in that facet of the game.
It's no secret the Patriots struggled on the ground against the Bills, and Winovich isn't the best run stopper. That said, the Patriots would benefit from having Winovich's athleticism and energy on the field more often. His snap count during Monday night's game against the winless New York Jets will be something to watch.