The Patriots have long mixed and matched running backs with situations in order to keep their offense rolling and this year promises to be no different.
New arrivals Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead have joined holdovers Dion Lewis, James White and Brandon Bolden in a deep backfield, albeit one that doesn’t have a clear choice to fill the big back role that LeGarrette Blount rode to 18 touchdowns last season. Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said the search for which player is the best fit for that job will be one of the things on tap during training camp.
“Somebody’s got to play big for us,” Fears said, via the team’s website. “We have enough guys who can play finesse football. Somebody’s got to play power football for us so we have to find out who’s going to do that. I think a lot of those guys are capable of that. Freakin’ James White ran the power offense when he was at Wisconsin so, what are we talking about? But he’s got to do it for us here. Not just him, but whether it’s Mike, whether it’s Rex or Brandon Bolden … somebody’s got to step up and be the big back when we need one and all those roles that come up in the game we have to find somebody to fit those roles, and I think we will.”
None of the backs have Blount’s size, but they will be working behind a good offensive line and in an offense with enough threats that defenses will have a hard time selling out against any one option. That should help in all situations, including the ones where New England needs a back to lower the shoulder and pick up two yards to keep the chains moving.