New England Patriots: Depth at running back on full display against Falcons
By Nick Ziegler
The New England Patriots were able to have a great game against the Atlanta Falcons thanks to a solid ground game.
Coming into the 2017, the New England Patriots had a lot of depth at the running back position. This offseason, the Patriots made some considerable changes to their backfield.
It was a bit surprising this offseason to see the organization really have no interest in LeGarrette Blount. In 2016, Blount was able to total over 1,000 rushing yards and he set the franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season.
In order to replace Blount, the Patriots signed running back Mike Gillislee from the Buffalo Bills. As a power runner as well, it looked like Gillislee was going to fit right into Blount’s role. In addition to signing Gillislee, the Patriots also added Rex Burkhead who was a versatile back from the Cincinnati Bengals.
With the additions of Burkhead and Gillislee, the Patriots also still had both James White and Dion Lewis on the roster. Overall, the Patriots looked like had a lot of depth at the running back position.
In their most recent win against the Atlanta Falcons, that depth was shown for the first time all season. All four running backs were involved, and the Patriots were able to control the game
"“We’re getting good play from our backs and our line. We’ve just got to be a little more consistent,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, already looking ahead. “We have another team this week — the Chargers — I don’t know how we’ll run the ball against them. We’ll have to go out there and do it again against another good defense, another good team. Whenever we get the opportunity to run it — whether it’s the first quarter, fourth quarter, whatever it is — we’ve just got to [do it].”"
The past few weeks, Dion Lewis has played a much larger role in the offense. Against the Falcons, Lewis was the leading rusher with 78 rushing yards on 13 carries. After missing some time, Burkhead was able to have a great first game back on the field, as he totaled 31 rushing yards on six carries. In addition to Burkhead, Gillislee also totaled 31 rushing yards. As a team, the Patriots were able to total 162 rushing yards on 36 carries.
Considering the struggles of the Patriots’ defense, keeping them off the field certainly helped against a talented Falcons offense. Moving forward, it appears like all four running backs will be involved in the offense. With a lot of depth at the position, the Patriots certainly appear to be focused on running the football more.