Despite all the troubles the Patriots' offense has faced in recent years, one of their most consistent units tends to see the highest turnover rate in the NFL. But even with that trend, Bill Belichick has been fortunate to find several high-performing running backs to put the offense over the edge.
From James White and Rex Burkhead to Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, New England has certainly been lucky with the talent they've acquired at running back.
Now preparing for the 2023 season, some new faces will join presumed RB1 Stevenson, most notably former Jacksonville Jaguar James Robinson.
Belichick signed Robinson early in free agency, which led to the eventual end of Harris' tenure with the team. But the move made sense, given the Patriots like to use their RBs in the passing game as well, which had been a continued weakness of Harris since White retired.
The addition of Robinson immediately vanishes that concern and takes a significant load off the shoulders of Stevenson, who has been the most productive back over the last two seasons. Although his 2022 season is forgettable, primarily due to injury and not being utilized within the Jets' offense upon being traded, his first two years in the league were considerably impressive.
He entered the league as an undrafted free agent, an aspect of a player's career that has made them thrive in New England with a chip on their shoulder and proved the teams that passed on him wrong in his first two seasons with the Jaguars.
In 2020 and 2021, Robinson totaled 404 carries for 1,837 yards and 15 touchdowns, adding 80 receptions for 566 yards and three touchdowns to his resume as well. He quickly became the offensive weapon that Jacksonville needed, but that went downhill the following year as he dealt with injuries.
Now that he feels he's getting another chance to prove (his former) teams wrong, Robinson shared he's looking forward to getting back on the field after healing from an achilles injury and putting any doubt regarding his abilities to rest.
"Really looking forward to it. I mean, coming off the achilles was a lot of talk of ‘he’s not going to be this. He’s not going to be that.' But, I felt like the start of that year, when I came back, I was doing pretty fine. I haven’t had a problem with it since."
Aware of what has been said about his performance since his second season, he mentioned he feels like the Patriots are a good fit for him and hopes to return to rookie form in order to best help his new team win.
"Just doing what I can to help this team win. They need to see me play and you guys need to see me play. Just trying to bring what I did in my rookie season here."
With OTAs beginning in a few weeks and minicamp kicking off next month, it will be exciting to see how the offense looks in practice, especially the running backs.
Robinson is set to join a unique roster of backs; Kevin Harris, Stevenson, Pierre Strong, and J.J. Taylor, all of which have at least one year of experience in the New England system. Plus, Ty Montgomery will return after being placed on season-ending injured reserve last year.
The competition will be stiff, with Strong and Montgomery both capable of being used in the passing game as well. But as long as he's healthy, Robinson could become an explosive piece the offense has needed, making this summer's practices even more fascinating to watch.