Jan 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) rushes the ball during the first quarter against the Denver Broncos during the 2013 AFC championship playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Final Report Card: Running Backs

January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next couple of days, Musket Fire will be running an end of year, ‘report card’ feature, that will give a final grade to each positional group for the 2013 season. Up next is the running backs.

Grade: B+

This group had a good year, but they flopped in the AFC Championship game. I would love to give them an A+, just based on their overall performance, but when you gain 64 yards in the biggest game of the year, an A+ is out of the question.

2013 will probably be remembered as ‘the year of the Blount’, but the other guys in the backfield had a solid campaign as well. Shane Vereen missed eight games due to a broken wrist, but he was a dominant force in the passing game when he was healthy. Vereen is unstoppable as a receiver, because there is not linebacker in the league that can cover him. Vereen finished 2013 with 635 total yards, which averages out to 79 a game.

Despite some fumble problems, Stevan Ridley also had a good year, as he led the team in rushing. I still believe that Ridley is the most talented back the Pats have, as what he bring to the table is overall a little better than both Blount, and Vereen. His combination of vision, speed, quickness, and power is something that is pretty rare to find in today’s NFL, and the Pats will need him on the field, if they wish to return to the AFC Championship.

Now on to Blount. If you said at the beginning of the 2013 season, that LeGarrette Blount would end up being a key contributor to the Pats playoff run, then you should be in Vegas, winning millions of dollars every year. This guy came into New England as a washed up back, who everybody assumed was here for depth. But as the year went on, Blount got better and better, until he became an unstoppable force by the end of the regular season. He said that Bill Belichick told him to lower his pads, which he said worked wonders, as he really began to take off after doing this. He is a big guy, so getting his pad level low is tough, but when he got it going, it was extremely tough for the opposition bring him down. However he disappeared in the final game of the season, carrying the ball only five times, for a total of six yards. Part of this wasn’t his fault, as the Pats fell behind early, but it was a little disappointing to see him on the sidelines for the majority of the contest.

Finally, we have Brandon Bolden, and James Develin. Bolden filled in well when his name was called, but overall, he didn’t make much of an impact this year. However I thought Develin was one of the most underrated Patriot players, as he paved holes for Vereen, Ridley, and Blount all year long. Fullbacks aren’t very popular in this day and age, but Develin put together a hell of year, doing nothing but blocking for his teammates (although he did have one sweet touchdown).

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Tags: Brandon Bolden James Develin LeGarrette Blount New England Patriots Shane Vereen Stevan Ridley

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