On Friday, the New England Patriots played their second game of the NFL Preseason against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In their first preseason game, the Patriots running back ran all over the poor Eagles run defense, but with the Bucs coming to town, a much tougher test was provided by the statistical best rush defense in the NFL last year. So here is the recap of the Patriots stable of running backs performances in game two of the preseason.
Stevan Ridley: Stevan Ridley was coming off a great performace running through the Eagles rush defense last game, but met a bit of a wall against the much stingier Bucs run defense. He managed only 18 yards on fives attempts, being contained quite well. He wasn’t used very much outside the first few series, giving most of the carries to Shane Vereen, and later down the line Brandon Bolden. It was a bit of a disappointment to see this happen after he looked so good last week, but a regression was more than likely. With the likes of Brady and Amendola leading the charge of the first team offense, his presence was needed slightly less, but this needs to be corrected. The Patriots need to attack teams with a far more balanced game plan this year, and Ridley needs to have great games against bad defenses, and just as good of games against the good defenses to compliment Brady and his fleet of new weapons.
LeGarrette Blount- Blount played his second game as a Patriot against his former team the Buccaneers, and much like Ridley was all around well contained. Blount finished the game with three carries for only ten yards, far removed from his 100+ yard, two touchdown game last week. It seemed the Patriots had very little success running inside, especially against Gerald McCoy. Blount and Ridley are definitely more inside runners, so they had troubles against this Bucs defense. Blount managed to add a catch on a checkdown from Brady on the second drive of the game for 12 yards. Don’t look too much into this, as Blount doesn’t bring much versatility to the passing game outside of being a security blanket. Just like Ridley, Blount is going to have to bring more against the good defenses, not just against the ones that couldn’t stop a nose bleed.
Shane Vereen- Vereen was easily the best Patriots running back on Friday, making fools of the Bucs vaunted run defense. The shifty speed and straight up explosiveness to going along with his great elusiveness makes him an absolute matchup nightmare on the field. He finished the game rushing four times for 46 yards. Running off tackle produced some very nice results, and I would hope to see the Patriots include him more as a runner to go along with his third down opportunities. To go along with this excellent rushing night, he provided great impact in the passing game, catching four passes for 29 yards. We all know that Vereen’s main impact on the Patriots this year will come through the air, so it was good to see him continue to be involved in that department. Vereen is making his case to be the Patriots number one running weapon with the way he has handled both the Bucs and Eagles defenses.
Brandon Bolden- Brandon Bolden once again carried most of the rushing load in the second half of the game, and produced some good results. He rushed six times for 38 yards in total, which included a very nice sideline run for 25 yards. Bolden doesn’t have great get away speed, which is concerning with how many times he likes to bounce his runs outside, but tonight it worked pretty well, taking advantage of that weakness in the Bucs otherwise normally solid run defense. It was only against second and third stringers, but Bolden showed that he has talent, the only problem being, does he bring anything else to the table that the other three backs before him don’t have? So far, that’s a no. The power department is covered by Ridley and Blount and the change of speed stuff is more than handled by Vereen. Bolden may be in tough to make this team at this rate. He really needs to give the Patriots no other choice than to keep him in these last two games.
Pat Develin- Develin made his first impact on the preseason running a few short yardage situations, and given some lead blocking duties as well. The Patriots have never really had much of a need for a fullback, but Develin is making his case for one. He ran twice for six yards, getting a first down on one. At this point, it seems that him and Michael Hoomanawanui may be in competition for a roster spot being the lead blocker for the Patriots. Hoomanawanui got most of the snaps last time, but Develin encroached on this duty Friday. I still think Hoomanawanui is a better option, and is leading the potential battle, but Develin still has two more games to make his case, otherwise it may be the practice squad for him.
Leon Washington- For awhile I honestly thought that Washington had been an inactive because I never saw him on the field, even during return opportunities. But sure enough, later in the game, he came out and had two returns, a punt and kickoff each. He didn’t look particularly impressive on either getting 27 yards on the kickoff return, and only six yards on his punt return. He had most of his chances taken by incumbent Julian Edelman, and rookie Josh Boyce. For a guy essentially brought in to be straight up return guy, I haven’t seen much that wasn’t in Boyce or Edelman. This is very disappointing as Washington could be a huge dimension added to this team. He has two games to get on the field and make an impact.
This game was not nearly as impressive as the one played against the Eagles, but there were still a number of positives to be had. Vereen and Bolden looked very good, and we potentially saw a roster battle begin between blockers in Develin and Hoomanawanui. Ridley and Blount were lackluster, but still showed the occasional flash of what we know they are capable of. Two games remain for the New England Patriots in the NFL Preseason, next week is the Detroit Lions, who hopefully can provide a nice test for the Patriots running back corps.
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