Training camp is approaching and now we can finally see how this running back rotation could turn out. Coaches get to separate the men from the boys when the pads come on. Right now the Patriots have Legarratte Blount, Jonas Gray, Brandon, Bolden, James White, Travaris Cadet, and Tyler Gafney in competition for snaps at camp. Each of these individuals have been praised for different things but it’s time to see who will live up to the hype. The Patriots typically activate four running backs each game, and that includes fullback James Develin. So based on prior knowledge of these players I predict the rotation of these players will be the following.
Starter 1(A) Legarratte Blount
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This shouldn’t shock anyone because Blount has been the primary rusher for the Patriots since his return. This offseason hasn’t produce much turnover at the running back position so barring any injury Blount should remain as the starter. Blount is a massive force as a runner and seems to get more effective as the game goes on. Blount has had fair success as a runner in the past but, now with a opportunity to carry the load for a full season he could take his production to another level. His season will start with a set back due to his one game suspension but even in 15 games Blount could reach the 1,000 yard mark for the first time since his rookie season,
Starter 1(B) Jonas Gray
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Gray has received a lot of praise since his 200 yard performance against the Colts last season. He is a small battering ram of a runner who fights for every yard. Unlike others I’m not that high on Gray. Everyone knows the Colts run defense is atrocious so I don’t like how much credit he receives for that performance. Blount would have done and has done the same thing to that same defense. To that point is why I don’t think Gray should even be active on the roster as much next season. He doesn’t give much in the receiving game, he isn’t known as a good pass blocker, and is really just a smaller version of Blount. I think he should only receive snaps for the first game since Blount will be absent. Otherwise he is a back up on the bench.
Backup Brandon Bolden
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Brandon Bolden is the most versatile and seasoned Patriot running back on the team. He has been in the system a few years now and can back up each role. He is a solid runner between the tackles, is good in pass protection, and has good hands. His special teams prowess should give him the nod over Jonas Gray each week.
Third-down specialist James White
Aug 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New England Patriots running back James White (28) against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
James White was a one of the most prolific running backs in Wisconsin football history. He ultimately had a redshirt season last year as he struggled to make the active roster. In that time he should have become more familiar with the playbook and worked on his body frame. He has been praised for his elusiveness and soft hands in the past and performed well in pass catching situations at OTAs. Shane Vereen went through similar circumstances before breaking out into the success he is now. White could be in route to that same success since the Patriots are working him through the same template. The competition for the third-down back is between him and Travaris Cadet. Since he has been given the nod thus far for reps unless he under performs when the pads come on I doubt he will lose the job.
Bill Belichick has previously praised his abilities as a runner and how he does a good job in blitz pickup. He continue on to say that he believes he could be a contributor on all three downs.
Fullback James Develin
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Well finally the game rotation should wrap up with James Develin at the fullback position. Develin is firmly in the position since he doesn’t have any immediate competition. The Patriots like to use Develin in special packages therefore he will dress each week. He is another come from nothing Patriots guy that Bill Belichick finds and turns into a diamond in the rough.
Since the number of roster spots are so scare these are who I predict will be in constant rotation throughout the season barring any injury. If James White locks up the pass catching role, and Blount finishes the season unharmed I don’t see any room for Jonas Gray. Develin gets one spot, Blount is the starter, Bolden has experience and special teams prowess, then White would come in on third downs. This should be quite a well oiled rotation. We will have to see how these guys perform overall in training camp. Gray could ultimately make the roster as insurance, and Tyler Gaffney has a chance on the practice squad. Veterans like Cadet and Dion Sims will more likely get cut and offer their services else where.