3. RUNNING BACK:
Jun 17, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley (22) during mini camp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Last year running back Stevan Ridley found himself sharing carries with veteran LeGarrette Blount after fumbling issues cropped up again for Ridley in 2013. Ridley and Blount rushed for 773 and 772 regular season yards respectively in 2013. With Blount signing in Pittsburgh this offseason the Patriots were again in the market for a running back as insurance.
Running back Brandon Bolden looked like the solution in 2012 but a four-game suspension for PEDs put him in the doghouse. Last season he was primarily in the role of third-down/receiving running back in place of Shane Vereen when he missed half the season with injury. Veteran Leon Washington was a washout and the offense sputtered with Bolden miscast as a blocking/receiving back in the passing game.
The Patriots spent one of their fourth-round draft picks this season on running back James White out of Wisconsin. White has an intriguing skill set as he is not a bruising back like Blount was, but he is low to the ground (five-foot-nine) and compact (204 pounds). However, in addition to being a viable option in the running game he has good hands, experience in pass protection, and quickness to make defenders miss when in open space.
With Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden all in the final year of their rookie contracts White will be given every opportunity to take snaps from all three in training camp and see where he fits. With fumbling issues for Ridley, injury issues for Vereen, and Bolden limited as a blocker/receiver White is a player to focus on in training camp.