PatsFans.com
PatsFans.com
Mac JonesMac JonesTrey Lance
Search

New England Patriots > Patriots Blog > Patriots Commentary

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running Backs

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
4 years ago at 6:30 am ET
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary

New England Patriots Training Camp Primer – Running BacksRichard Mackson - USA TODAY Sports

Unit is Much Deeper Heading into 2017

The Patriots head into training camp in just a few weeks and there should no shortage of competition at several spots, especially at the back end of the roster. As a lead-in to the beginning of camp, we’ll break down the positions and give our take on who is a lock, a near lock for the 53-man roster and who is on the bubble. We start the week off at the running back position.

Bill Belichick likes to say that the spring’s OTAs and Minicamp is a learning exercise and that the real competition begins in training camp. With the new rules in play, the Patriots will start camp with 90 players and don’t have to cut down until the final 53.

So, with that in mind, we’ll start with the running backs, we know Belichick likes a running back by committee, which tends to keep those fantasy numbers down but keeps their legs fresh. The team lost last year’s leading rusher LeGarrette Blount to free agency but it seemed like they had no interest in bringing him back and just moved on.

So… who’s locked in and who’s on the bubble?

Roster Locks: James White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee
James White had a very good season backed with a tremendous effort in the Super Bowl. That parlayed into a three-year, $12 million-dollar contract extension with $4 million guaranteed and a maximum value of $15 million. He’s an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield and has earned his payday. He was sixth in the NFL with Yards after Catch (YAC) with 540.

Burkhead is a versatile guy brought over from the Bengals. He can run between the tackles, catch the ball out of the backfield and play special teams extremely well. He was the Bengals’ leading ST tackler last year. He’s a consummate professional and will fit in seamlessly here. He’s going to compete for reps, he’ll just have to show he’s consistent enough to warrant them all the time. He was given decent money on a one-year deal.

Mike Gillislee looks to be a prime candidate to replace LeGarrette Blount’s carries in the Pats offense. (SBalestrieri photo

Gillislee is the type of one-cut runner that hits the hole quickly that should bode very well in the Patriots offense. He will take over Blount’s duties and carries especially in the red zone. He’s more the size of Stevan Ridley than Blount but his quickness off the line makes him an intriguing player to watch this season. I think he’s another player that should fit very well here.

Near Roster Locks: Dion Lewis, James Develin
Belichick likes to characterize Lewis as an inside runner more than a pass catcher. But the diminutive, water bug is a very difficult man to catch in the open field. His ability to make people miss is amazing at times. He wasn’t fully healthy after suffering an ACL tear late in 2015. The only thing that could hold him back is if he isn’t fully healthy now and his knee gives him problems again during training camp.

As a lead blocker, Develin can really open some nice holes for the backs to get to the second level. They missed him in 2015 when he went on IR with a leg injury but his presence made a big difference last year. He’s a versatile guy that can line up as a fullback, H-back or a tight end. It would be hard to see him not making this roster.

On the Bubble: D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden
Foster is the wild card here again in 2017. The undrafted free agent running back from Arizona State possesses the type of speed and quickness that Lewis has. He’s much taller however at just around 6’0 and has special teams’ versatility. He can catch the ball and I believe he can play in this league. But if he were to stay, who goes? This will be one of those tough decisions unless someone gets a case of the Foxboro Flu. It will be difficult I believe in seeing him pass thru waivers. I think unless an injury occurs, we may be seeing him playing in a different uniform this year.

Bolden has always been a guy who was a core special teams guy and a very effective one. But this season will be a very difficult one for Bolden to be there for the final 53-man cut-down. Burkhead is another good special teams’ player and offers much more on offense than Bolden does. This could be one of those difficult decisions that Bill Belichick has to make.

Brandon Bolden (standing next to Dion Lewis) could be the other guy on the outside looking in this summer. (SBalestrieri photo)

Outside Looking in…. Longshots: Glenn Gronkowski, LeShun Daniels
The Patriots signed…. and cut Gronkowski three times from the practice squad. But the good news is that they liked him well enough to keep bringing him back. But the problem is this: As long as Devlin is on the roster and healthy, it is going to be very difficult for “Baby Gronk” to carve out a role….another Practice Squad opportunity perhaps awaits.

Daniels has good size at 6’0 and 225-pounds and rushed for 1000 yards in Iowa last season, the first back at the school to do so since 2011. He has a decent jump cut and is very good between the tackles and in short yardage. But with Gillislee and Burkhead vying for 1st team reps, he has a long uphill climb for a roster spot. But he’s a prime candidate for a Practice Squad slot if he shows he’s got down-the-road potential.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.


Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick D.J. Foster Dion Lewis James Devlin James White LaGarrette Blount LeShun Daniels Jr. Mike Gillislee New England Patriots Patriots running backs Rex Burkhead Tom Brady


  • Comments are closed.

  • More News Headlines:

    New England Patriots News August 1, Training Camp Notebook

    New England Patriots News August 1, Training Camp Notebook

    By: Steve Balestrieri
    Newton told the media, “ever since I’ve been here, it’s been a quarterback competition,” he said. “That, in essence, is the Patriot Way,”
    3 days ago
    Best Of Social Media: Sights and Sounds From Day 2 Of Training Camp

    Best Of Social Media: Sights and Sounds From Day 2 Of Training Camp

    By: Robert Alvarez
    The best social media soundbites and photos from the second Patriots training camp practice session.
    5 days ago
    Patriots Stidham Reportedly Sidelined By Shoulder Ailment

    Patriots Stidham Reportedly Sidelined By Shoulder Ailment

    By: Ian Logue
    When Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham's name popped up on the PUP list to start training camp, it certainly caught everyone's attention given the club's QB…
    5 days ago
    Best Of Social Media: Sights and Sounds From Day 1 Of Training Camp

    Best Of Social Media: Sights and Sounds From Day 1 Of Training Camp

    By: Robert Alvarez
    Check out all the best social media sights and sounds from the first day of Patriots Training Camp.
    6 days ago
    MORSE: What to Watch For at Patriots Training Camp

    MORSE: What to Watch For at Patriots Training Camp

    By: Mark Morse
    These are the primary items that I will be watching for at the Training camp.  Most of these are pretty obvious but some are in-depth…
    6 days ago
    Search For Links: - CLOSE
    For searches with multiple players
    add commas (Ex: "Bill Belichick, Devin McCourty")