This is the second entry in our 2016 positional review series for the New England Patriots.
Yes, the Patriots’ rushing attack was one of the worst in the NFL this season, but it was mainly because of poor blocking from the offensive line. If there are no holes to run through, I don’t care who you are as a running back, you won’t get much done. I certainly don’t think New England’s backs were great in 2015, but they weren’t as bad as their 30th ranking makes them look.
In terms of talent, Dion Lewis was far and away the best back the Pats had this year. His quickness, agility and vision coming out of the backfield was Barry Sanders-like, and his injury might have been the biggest reason New England isn’t in the Super Bowl right now. There wasn’t a single linebacker in the league that could cover him out of the backfield, and when he ran the ball he always made something happen even if the offensive line didn’t give him much to work with. I hope he makes a full recovery, because he truly was one of the most electric players I have ever seen.
James White did a decent job replacing him, but it became obvious that he simply wasn’t as dynamic as Lewis was. 16 targets in the AFC Championship game, and White only managed five receptions when his team needed him the most. I think White is a very good player, but he is clearly not on Lewis’ level just yet. Brandon Bolden was a special-teams stud as usual, and when given the opportunity on offense, he produced. I have been a big Bolden critic in the past, but he showed me this season that he can make plays when needed.
As for the big backs, it was all LeGarrette Blount once again for Bill Belichick and company. We thought Steven Jackson would be able to replace him for the playoffs, but it was apparent Blount has much more left in the tank than the aging Jackson. Blount takes awhile to get going, but once he starts going downhill it is tough to stop him. He is set to be a free agent, so it will be interesting to see if the Pats retain him.