Jan 11, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) celebrates after a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts in the second half during the 2013 AFC divisional playoff football game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Assessing The New England Patriots Running Back Position

As we move towards the beginning of actual football being played, there are still a lot of questions pertaining to the New England Patriots roster. From the group of wide receivers, all the way to quarterbacks, there are very few areas that appear to be ready to go.

However the stable of running backs are one of those few position that look like they are ready for the 2014 season, and that is where I want to start my positional analysis.

Projected Backs

Stevan Ridley

Shane Vereen

James White

Brandon Bolden

The starting duo will be Ridley, and Vereen. I don’t think there is any argument there. Both of these guys are extremely talented, and when you pool their talents, the Pats have a formidable one-two punch running behind Tom Brady.

In my opinion, Ridley is the better overall back, while Vereen is the better third down back, who excels in the pass game. The knock on Ridley is his ability (or lack thereof) to hold onto the football. He has fumbled the ball eight times in his three year career, which has led to numerous benchings from coach Bill Belichick. But if he can straighten out those fumbling issues, he could evolve into one of the best backs in the game. He is big, powerful, has great vision, and is deceptively quick. When the Patriots need to simply stuff the ball down an opponents throat, and take some heat off of Tom Brady, Ridley has shown that he can do it.

Now the biggest weakness in Vereen’s game, is probably the durability issue. He has missed quite a few games over the course of his three year carer, which is part of the reason why he doesn’t play on every single down. Bu as a third down back, he is absolutely phenomenal. Vereen can beat just about every linebacker in the game, has the quickness and agility to gain yards after the catch, and when he turns on that speed, you might as well say goodbye. He also has shown flashes of between the tackle ability, but when you have Ridley on your team, there is no need to risk Vereen on first and second down.

The Patriots selected James White in the fourth round of this year’s draft, and other than the first round pick of Dominique Easley, this was my favorite Pats selection. White was incredibly productive at Wisconsin, but more importantly, he hung onto the damn ball. In 754 career touches in college, White fumbled twice. That is just amazing. Bill Belichick loves guys that are dependable with the ball (see Ridley), and White is about as dependable as they get. He can also catch the ball, and is good in pass protection as well, which is important in a Tom Brady offense.

Overall, this group should provide New England with plenty of production in 2014. Ridley and Vereen will create havoc throughout most of the game, but I expect White to take advantage of some tired defenses, and have a quality rookie season.

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Tags: James White New England Patriots Shane Vereen Stevan Ridley

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