The New England Patriots no longer have the kind of presence at QB who is capable of elevating otherwise non-descript offensive weapons to levels they would never reach elsewhere. Jarrett Stidham and/or Brian Hoyer isn’t Tom Brady, but many suggest they don’t need to be for the Patriots to remain on top in the AFC East.
ESPN analyst Mike Tanenbaum is a believer in the Patriots. On a recent episode of ESPN Get Up, Tanenbaum called the Patriots the team to beat in the AFC East, and he specifically pointed to the running backs as a primary strength on the offensive side of the ball.
“When you think about that running back room, it is the best room of any position group in all of football.”
Whoa! That is a bold statement considering not one Patriots running back has ever even made a Pro Bowl. However, there is something to be said about the team’s depth and experience at running back.
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Patriots Running Back Depth Chart
The starter at this point is likely Sony Michel and if the Patriots go with two in the backfield, he’ll be accompanied by the veteran James White.
They will be followed up by Rex Burkhead and Branden Bolden, who gets the majority of his reps on special teams. There’s also undrafted free agent, J.J. Taylor. It would appear there is a chance the team will begin the season with five running backs on its roster.
What Michel Brings
Michel has yet to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as a runner and has made very little impact as a pass-catching back through his first two seasons in the NFL. However, the 25-year-old may be set to see a spike in both categories.
With Brady gone, the Patriots are likely to lean more heavily on the running game, which should lead to more opportunities for Michel, who has been the team’s primary ball carrier.
What White Brings
White is easily the best blocker and receiver of all of the Patriots’ backs. He’s also one of the team leaders, which is a role that cannot be devalued, especially when you consider players like Brady, Ben Watson, James Develin, and Stephen Gostkowski aren’t going to be in the locker room this season.
White’s versatility and intangibles make him a great asset.
What Burkhead Brings
Injuries have taken a bite out of Burkhead’s career, but he boasts some of the same kind of versatility that Harris brings to the team. Burkhead is a solid blocker who can get the tough yards on the inside, and his hands are sure enough to make sure he can also make an impact as a receiver.
Staying healthy will be the key for him if he isn’t released before the start of the season.
What Taylor Brings
Despite standing just 5’5″, Taylor runs with power and great leverage. He can be a weapon in short-yardage situations, as a third-down back, and in a few other areas. If he can prove he can pick up blitzes, he’ll go a long way toward securing a spot on the roster.
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