Tha Sports Junkies 101

State of the Patriots Running Backs

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With the news of Dion Lewis needing a second surgical procedure on his knee breaking today, the depth chart at running back behind LeGarrette Blount is unclear. While there is no definite time table for Lewis’ return, it is expected to be at least 8-10 weeks. Lewis being out of the picture for at least the foreseeable future makes Blount a roster lock, and third year back James White a near lock. Brandon Bolden will likely also make the roster as an emergency option but his contributions are expected to continue to primarily be on special teams.

Dion Lewis was absolutely electric to watch last season. His other-worldly elusiveness and ability as a pass catcher makes him easily the most complete back on the team. While James White has shown he can pick up some of the slack catching passes out of the back field, his production running between the tackles is nowhere close to what Lewis can offer. The Patriots will likely look at a “running back by committee” approach to replacing Lewis’ production.

At this point, the fourth and likely final roster spot (Lewis doesn’t count against the 53 man roster while on PUP list) is an open competition. Tyler Gaffney has made the strongest case thus far, but Donald Brown and undrafted rookie DJ Foster are still very much in the mix too. However with league-wide roster cuts looming, there will be plenty of available running backs in the coming days. It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise for the Patriots to bring one or two of them in. New England is known for always doing their due diligence and at least kicking the tires on any available player they think may be able to contribute.

There’s a very strong chance we could see another running back brought in via trade as well. Titans running back Bishop Sankey could likely be had for a low price, as he’s slipped down the depth chart behind DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry. Chiefs running back Knile Davis is another realistic option. The Cowboys are rumored to be looking to move one their running backs, and a proven veteran like Darren McFadden or Alfred Morris could flourish in the Patriots system.

Though the Patriots finished dead last in rushing yards per game last year, their run game should see significant improvement this season despite not making any serious personnel changes. A very depleted offensive line that was decimated by injuries last year was a big factor in their lackluster run game. With a healthy group on the line, and the return of legendary offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, the Patriots will likely see a much improved run game this season.