The Patriots have added an Olympic edge to their team. Today the team announced a deal involving silver medalist and former Florida Gator Jeff Demps. Demps, a four year running back, was a member of the men’s 4×100 relay team in this year’s London games. The move adds some serious speed to the Patriots backfield.
While at Florida Demps had 2,470 career yards and 23 touchdowns. He did not participate in any senior games or the NFL combine in order to focus on his sprinting. Had he chosen to enter the 2012 draft, he was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round. Demps is yet another player Bill Belichick has picked up from Urban Meyer’s Florida recruiting. So far Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez have worked out so hopefully the Meyer/Belichick connection means a dynamic to this Patriots team.
Right now the Patriots have Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and rookie Brandon Bolden on the roster at the running back position. Noticeably absent will be the presence of Kevin Faulk. He was Mr. Third Down and I wonder if any of these players can fill the hole he left behind.
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The addition of Demps signals that one of these players possibly will not make the cut. There is depth and then there is too much depth. The Patriots can’t afford to carry all five guys at running back plus Eric Kettani and Spencer Larsen at the fullback position. I’d like to see them with more depth at offensive or defensive line. Versatility is what will set these players apart. Who can get the big yards but also make the tough push for those last two yards on third down? That is the player Belichick will keep around. We’ve seen it before, be able to do anything and everything and he will be pleased.
I am very interested to see how Belichick will incorporate Demps speed into the game plan. We’ve seen fast players before, but does he have the reflexes and quick moves to back it up? At 5’8″ and 191lbs he will have the advantage of getting low underneath defenders and fitting into those small spaces. We’ve seen Woodhead do that on countless occasions but I want to see what else he can do.
If he doesn’t fit into the running back rotation, I think Demps will have a secure spot on special teams. He returned kicks at Florida averaging 28.8 yards on his 21 attempts with one touchdown. The Patriots need to put someone aside from Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead on kickoff/punt returns. Matthew Slater is okay but I think Demps speed and size will be more of an advantage.
Overall I think this is a good signing by the Patriots. I don’t expect Demps to have much of an impact on the running game but I see him contributing quite a bit on special teams. It takes more than speed to be a football player so hopefully Demps can show some good instincts and a high football IQ. The Patriots way is a complicated one but if he can pick it up and prove he is versatile, this will prove to be a winning combination.