Will the New England Patriots focus more on the run game this year?
It would be hard not to. The Patriots threw the ball 609 times last season compared to 438 rushes.
Some games they focused on the run more than others – like on Nov. 16 against the Colts when Jonas Gray carried the ball 37 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns.
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But the fact that Gray led all Patriots running backs in rushing yards with 412, and Shane Vereen led all running backs in carries with 96, shows that the ground game wasn’t exactly featured.
Of course, things changed a bit when LeGarrette Blount was released by the Steelers and jumped on with the Patriots. Blount played in five regular season games for the Pats as well as three postseason games, emerging as the lead back.
That remains the case heading into the 2015-16 season, as Blount leads a group of running backs that no longer includes Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, both of whom went elsewhere in free agency.
But Blount reportedly suffered a sprained MCL a few days ago in camp, putting him out for at least the majority of camp (he was already suspended for Week 1 vs. Pittsburgh). That means more opportunities for the rest of the group. Let’s take a look at it.
Automatics: LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
As previously mentioned, Blount is the leader of this unit and will get most of the carries once he’s back on the field. Bolden is counted on much more in the special teams game, but could have a bigger hand in the offense this season. He signed a two-year, $3.2 million contract with the Patriots over the offseason. Develin is a fullback – and a great one at that – that the Patriots love to use in the blocking game.
On the bubble: Travaris Cadet, Jonas Gray, James White
The Patriots signed Cadet to a two-year, $1.7 million contract in the offseason. The fourth-year pass-catching back was buried in New Orleans, but could emerge in New England with Vereen gone. He’ll have competition with White, who the Patriots drafted in the 4th round last year as a third-down type back. Gray has a good shot at making the team because after Blount, there aren’t really any workhorse backs on the team. Gray proved he can carry the load for a game, but he’s yet to prove he can be depended.
“We compete on a day-to-day basis,” Cadet said. “We push each other. We ask each other questions. Everybody brings a different tendency to the table, so something I may lack somebody else may be great in. I can probably learn from the next guy and that reminds me from when I was in New Orleans.”
The others: Dion Lewis, Tyler Gaffney