Whats Next for the Patriots at Running Back?

The NFL is a passing league; yep we have heard that before.  Ever since Bill Walsh instituted the west coast short passing game that dominated the 1980’s for the 49ers, the NFL has continued to evolve the passing game.   The New England Patriots have perfected the short passing game to a point where everyone thinks that it replaces the running game.  So losing LaGarrette Blount is no big deal in the eyes of many.  Fans and the color commentators we hear on Sunday afternoons could not be more wrong.

With Blount being lost for the season with a hip injury, this is just the latest blow to the Patriots offense.  Can they win? Sure, but they will need to have some semblance of a running game if they want to win in the playoffs.  Everyone will point back to last year’s Super Bowl run and claim they beat Baltimore, by only running for 14 yards.  Yes they did, out of necessity, when you fall behind by 14 points once you have to throw the ball to win. Fall behind by 14 points twice, it’s nearly impossible to come back and win. The Patriots did just that.  Fast forward to the Super Bowl, and the people who say you can win without a running game are right, the Patriots ran the ball 21 times for 57 yards, and Brady threw the ball 50 times and the Patriots won.  However, the game took the most impressive fourth quarter in Super Bowl history by a quarterback, and the best defensive play in the championship game.  All Seattle needed to do was hand off.   As can be seen by this win graph.

patriots_seahawks_win_probability_graph_picture

Looking at the NFL since the turn of the century, a solid running game is needed to win the big game.  Since 2000 only two teams, the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the 2011 New York Giants have won the Super Bowl averaging less than 100 yards rushing per game as a team during the regular season.  While the days of the bell cow back are going away, team running is still a must in the league.

The Patriots have now lost their two top back, Dion Lewis and Blount, and are averaging 90.6 yards per game.  How can the Patriots replace Blount and establish a running game that will help lead them to a championship.

On the Roster

Brandon Bolden

Bolden was an un-drafted free agent in 2012.  He had one break out game for the Patriots versus the Buffalo Bills, when he rushed for 137 yards on 16 carries. Soon after he was in the dog house when he was suspended for breaking the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy.  On the season Bolden has 35 carries for 110 yards, no touchdowns and a mediocre 3.1 yards per carry.  Bolden is what he is, a solid special teams player who can make a few runs when he has to.  For all the talk from fans and experts alike that putting Bolden in as the starter is just a next man up scenario, they are kidding themselves.  Bolden may make a nice run here and there but for the most part he runs for two yards per carry and that is about it.

James White

White is the new Shane Vereen.  He is great at catching the ball.  He does well in his blocking assignments.  I would like to see White carry the ball more often in traditional run sets.  However until this point the Patriots have used him as the traditional “passing back”   The Pats most likely do not want to wear White out running the ball as he is so valuable catching it.

Montee Ball   

Ball could be a very intriguing back.  In 2013 as a rookie he rushed for 599 yards and four scores. Ball was placed on injured reserve last year after five weeks.  He was cut in September by the Broncos, as he didn’t fit Coach Gary Kubiak’s zone run scheme.  Ball who is currently on the practice squad could be activated to the 53 man roster.  He has had success as a former second round pick.  Ball also can catch the ball as his 29 career receptions suggests.  The question is whether or not he is in football shape as ESPN’s Ed Werder reported he is heavier than he was when drafted.

Outside the Organization 

Steven Jackson

Jackson was one of the best backs of his generation, but at 32 and out of football this year, what does he have in the tank?  Jackson has at least a general knowledge of the Patriots offense, having played for Josh McDaniels in St. Louis in 2011.  Jackson is the type of back that the Patriots could possibly get some final mileage out of.  Reports are that there is mutual interest between the two.

 

Give a watch to Bobby Krivitsky and I break down the Texans game and talk about the Patriots injuries.   By clicking here to watch Inside the Hoodie

 

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