W2W4: New England Patriots vs New York Giants

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When the Patriots Run the Ball:

Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots suffered a huge loss to their offense when Dion Lewis was placed on injured reserve with a torn left ACL. Lewis was more than just a weapon in the passing game, as he could run between the tackles and on draw plays he was very effective in getting positive yards. He finished 2015 with 49 rushes for 234 yards and a 4.8 yards per attempt average.

Other than games against the run-stuffing defensive lines of the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets (and his one game suspension served against Pittsburgh), LeGarrette Blount has been a consistent threat carrying the ball as he was the previous two seasons. He rushed for 78, 74, 93, 72, and 129 yards in games had more than 3 rushing attempts. For the season, Blount is averaging an impressive 4.6 yards per attempt.

Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots do not always run the ball, but when they do they have done it well with Blount and Lewis. The question becomes whether Blount continues to have a bigger role in the game plan each week and who is able to replace Lewis as the pass receiving running back. Brandon Bolden stepped in and contributed immediately with an 18 yard touchdown reception against Washington.

While Bolden is the jack-of-all-trades backup, he actually looked good blocking in the passing game and receiving. In 2013 Bolden was pressed into service as the third down back when Shane Vereen broke his hand and veteran Leon Washington could not get healthy and get on the field. Bolden was a liability blocking in the passing game and did not earn Brady’s trust as a receiver. Last week he was strong on blitz pickup, had a 12 yard rush, and looked comfortable snagging 3 passes for 27 yards.

Important: Patriots release latest practice report     

That said, look for James White to get the call as the third down back going forward. While White does not have Lewis’ moves, he does have deceptive sturdiness and strength (five-foot-nine and 204 pounds) to go with his quick feet and sure hands. Remember, at Wisconsin White was a between the tackles rusher with just 34 receptions in his first three seasons while racking up 2,571 yards. His senior year saw him pull in 39 passes for 300 yards and rushing for 1,444 yards in 13 games.

The Giants do not have the defensive players to slow the Patriots on the ground. They are 22nd against the run having allowed 1,033 yards in 9 games so far and allowing a 4.3 yards per attempt average. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins is 34 and not the force he was once while impressive young tackle Johnathan Hankins was lost for the season with a pectoral injury. Markus Kuhn is a big step down from Hankins and second year tackle Jay Bromley has not shown much so far.

The New York Giants’ linebackers Jasper Brinkley and Jonathan Casillas are not anything more than average. Brinkley was promoted to the starting lineup when veteran Jon Beason went on injured reserve and takes over in the middle. Casillas was in New England last year coming over from Tampa Bay and is undersized for a weakside linebacker and gets overrun trying to take on tight ends blocking him in the running game.  

Devon Kennard is a young, talented linebacker and has taken over as the leader at linebacker. He is smart, can tackle, and looks like a long-term solution for the Giants. What Kennard and the Giants do well is force turnovers. Unfortunately, their opponent this week does not turn the ball over often. The Giants defense needs to force multiple turnovers to have a chance to slow the Patriots.


Next: When the Patriots Pass the Ball