New England Patriots backfield ranked in top-10 of league

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: James White #28 of the New England Patriots reacts after a 26-yard touchdown run against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 04: James White #28 of the New England Patriots reacts after a 26-yard touchdown run against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter in Super Bowl LII at U.S. Bank Stadium on February 4, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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The New England Patriots have one of the better backfield situations in the NFL heading into the 2018 season.

The New England Patriots look like they are going to have another great offense in 2018. Even with some turnover at wide receiver, New England still has quarterback Tom Brady under center. As long as he is there, they will perform offensively. This season, the Patriots could be even more impressive given their stable at running back.

New England’s depth chart at running back is quite impressive. They have a diverse group of players that can fill a number of roles on the team.

Right now, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead and James White look like they will lead the backfield. Michel was the No. 31 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and will have a role right off the bat. Burkhead is the leader for short-yardage work in the early going. White is the passing down specialist.

The nice thing about all three players is that they aren’t shoehorned by a specific role. While they will have different roles offensively, they are capable of performing other tasks. All three are capable receivers, while also being capable runners as well.

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With so much talent at their disposal, the Patriots offense will be able to provide opposing defenses with plenty of different looks. They will keep them on their toes, not giving away play calls based on personnel.

Over at ESPN, that trio was used for the Patriots projected unit stats. The Patriots and their fans will be happy with the predictions. New England is projected as the 10th best backfield in the NFL, with some impressive statistics as well.

The Patriots’ backfield is projected to have 1,672 yards rushing on 393 carries for 15 touchdowns. Through the air, they are projected for 105 receptions for 870 yards and five more touchdowns.

Here is what they had to say about the Patriots projections.

"The Patriots are known for their committee approach, but we very well could see a bit of a change in 2018 after Bill Belichick & Co. spent a first-round pick on Michel. Passing-down specialist White, versatile Burkhead and one of Jeremy Hill or Mike Gillislee also figure to mix in, but considering the team’s success with Burkhead and Dion Lewis last season, it’s fair to expect Michel will see an opportunity for significant touches. Patriots backs have averaged a pedestrian 4.1 YPC over the past three seasons, but they were at 4.4 last season. The unit combined for a league-high nine touchdown receptions in 2017, and it ranks first with 23 over the past three seasons. Belichick’s sum-of-the-parts approach has worked fairly well, so we should expect another strong season from his backfield in 2018."

The versatility of this group is what truly makes them special. Despite losing last season’s leading rusher, Dion Lewis, in free agency, they may actually have better production this season.

Michel is a more explosive player than Lewis is. If Burkhead remains healthy, he will produce at a high level as well. White is as good as they come as a passing back. Hill and Gillislee are probably battling it out for one spot.

Next: New England Patriots: 53-Man Running Back Prediction

The backfield production will help take pressure off of Brady and the passing game. While Brady showed last season he is more than capable of performing at a high level still, having a running game to lean on will be nice as well.