New England Patriots running back Leon Washington has a roster spot locked due to his incredible ability on kick-off returns, and Washington is exactly the dynamic kick-off returner that this team has sorely needed. Field position is an incredibly important and underrated aspect of the game, and the Patriots already do an excellent job of suffocating an opponent’s field position through Stephen Gostkowski’s booming leg and some great special teams coverage led by ace and captain Matthew Slater. Now with Leon Washington in the fold, the Patriots will be able to greatly improve their own field position with one of the best kick returners in the NFL. Jed Ober wrote a piece on how Washington is one of the Patriots X-Factors, and having better field position with a guy who has a better chance of bringing one back for points is certainly a valuable asset.
Bill Belichick was asked about Leon Washington during yesterday’s press conference and said this about the former Seattle Seahawks returner, “He hasn’t gotten a lot of opportunities but I think he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been healthy, he’s been out there every day, he’s worked hard, he’s got a great attitude, he’s got great leadership for our team and for the running back group. I think he’s shown up positively in the return game even though he hasn’t really had a lot of opportunity. But we still have two more games here; we’ll see how it goes.”
Washington hasn’t been talked about much in the preseason, and that’s because there really hasn’t been much of an opportunity for the new Patriots return man to showcase his skills. Training camp has mostly been about the position players, and Washington is unlikely to get many offensive snaps with the kind of talent and depth at running back. But if need be, Washington can run the ball a little and has good hands out of the backfield. The Patriots like to have returners who can provide value on offense, and Washington can if the Patriots need him to in a pinch.