If you’re looking for something to be concerned about with this year’s Patriots team, look no further than its running back corps.
The Patriots have always been a pass-first team with Tom Brady as quarterback, but now that he’s missing the first four games, the quarterback duties go to Jimmy Garoppolo.
With a top tier running back to take 25-plus carries a game, this wouldn’t be as big of a deal.
But the Patriots don’t have one of those to bail them out if need be. That means Garoppolo can expect to throw the ball plenty as the Patriots will continue to make due with who they have running the ball.
That isn’t to say that there is no skill at the position – there is – but whether or not LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis can stay healthy is the question.
As it stands, Blount, whose 2015 season was shortened due to a hip injury, is back on the field for the Patriots. Lewis tore his ACL last November, and is still on the PUP list.
LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden
Is Blount the sexy back that will juke and jive his way to 120 rushing yards a game? No. He’s a north-south back that isn’t afraid to use his body to forge ahead for yardage. And while the Patriots don’t ask him to carry it 25 times a game, he has shown that he can take the bulk of the carries when the game plan calls for it. Blount loves playing in New England and he’s back on a one-year deal. As long as he can stay on the field, he’ll be a big asset.
The 5-foot-8 Lewis is anything but big physically, but his impact on the team in his first season in New England was massive. According to Pro Football Focus, Lewis created an NFL-best .39 missed tackles per attempt in 2015, on his way to 234 rushing yards, 388 receiving yards, and four combined touchdowns in seven games. How will he look once he returns from the injury? His quickness and elusiveness are his biggest assets, but the mental hurdle is often times as hard to overcome as the physical.
Bolden stepped in during a time of need last season, but really makes his mark on special teams for the Patriots.
James White, Donald Brown, James Develin, DJ Foster, Tyler Gaffney, Joey Iosefa
There are some out there who don’t think White will crack the Patriots’ roster out of camp. But when called upon he’s been ready. He had ten receptions for 115 yards and a TD in Week 13 against the Eagles. And he made a nice 56-yard catch and run last Thursday against the Saints. Another running back who shined against the Saints was Tyler Gaffney. Gaffney has been on the team since 2014, but hasn’t been able to get off injured reserve. He’s off it now, and made sure everybody knew it with a 44-yard touchdown run.
“He’s there early, he stays late, never complains, always does extra,” Belichick said of Gaffney, “and so it’s great to see him have an opportunity this year … happy for him, happy that he’s out there and got through the game and can just keep building on [Thursday’s] performance.”