As it stands going into Friday’s deadline for finalizing the teams’ 53-man roster the Patriots currently have five running backs. Stevan Ridley has virtually assumed the No. 1 role, while Shane Vereen is also a lock to make the roster. Then there’s Danny Woodhead, undrafted rookie Brandon Bolden and Olympic silver-medalist track star Jeff Demps. This position battle is one of the most interesting on the team.
Last season the Patriots went with four running backs for their initial 53-man roster, but Kevin Faulk was on the PUP list, so essentially they had five. Will they go with five again this season? Could the Patriots have an undrafted rookie free agent make their roster? Could they have a player make the team who joined only two and a half weeks before the first regular season game and also did not take part in football activities since last January to focus on the Olympics?
A major issue from a running backs standpoint this preseason has been their inability to pick up the blitz. All of the backs who have seen time have been less than average in this department, and with the struggles of the offensive line it makes it even more important for the running backs to be able to protect Tom Brady.
Some have thrown around the idea of Woodhead being cut, which seems a bit out of left field considering he has been a major contributor since joining the team two years ago. It has also been said that Bolden has been very impressive in his short time with the team. Demps has gathered the attention of many since he joined the team last week and played sparingly in the second half of last Friday’s game against Tampa Bay.
I think the idea of cutting Woodhead should be thrown out the window. He has proven he can work well with Brady and the offense. He has contributed in his time in New England and maybe most importantly he has played a valuable role with the special teams units. Bill Belichick values players who can also play special teams and Woodhead is one of these guys. I see him as a lock to make the final 53.
Now there are a few questions when deciding between Bolden and Demps. Could the team keep them both? If they were to cut one of them, who it be?
To me if I were the Patriots I would go with four running backs and cut Demps. I don’t see the value in keeping a player who just joined the squad two weeks prior to the regular season. There are no guarantees with Demps being in football shape, and being able to grasp the demanding Patriots playbook. His main role with the team would be a kick returner. There isn’t much value in one player taking up a roster spot just to be a kick returner. There are plenty of other players capable of doing the job.
But, that is my personal opinion. I think the Patriots will keep all five running backs. I believe they are very high on Demps and think he can make an impact catching passes out of the backfield when getting the ball in open space. There is no denying his ability to race pass defenders and make them miss in open space, but there are other things to consider like previously mentioned. The one drawback is if they keep five running backs what other position will they be forced to cut from?