Once an area of weakness, the running back position is an area that the Patriots have given more attention to over the past couple of years. No longer do we have to deal with Laurence Maroney’s dancing-for-one-yard antics. We actually have some hard-nosed, talented backs.
As of today, the Patriots depth chart at the position looks something like this:
- Stevan Ridley
- Shane Vereen
- Brandon Bolden
- LeGarrette Blount
- Leon Washington
Chances are the team will not carry five running backs into the regular season, although nothing can be assumed when it comes to Belichick. If I had to guess, I’d say that four of these five will be on the final roster. This is of course barring an injury like we saw with Jeff Demps in the preseason last year.
The Locks: Ridley, Vereen, Washington
Ridley was the feature back last season and should retain that role this season. With the departure of Woodhead, Vereen seems most likely to take over the third-down and receiving role. Washington most likely won’t see many carries, but his value lies on special teams, where he will definitely be the main kick returner and also potentially the main punt returner.
On the Bubble: Bolden, Blount
Bolden, while he is the same size as Ridley, was much more of a downhill runner than the shifty Ridley. He showed flashes last season of being the goal-line back that the Patriots needed, before a four game suspension set him off course. In his return he saw limited action and didn’t look like the same runner he was before the suspension. Blount will be challenging him for the potential goal-line bruiser role. At almost 250 pounds, Blount has the perfect frame to be the go-to guy in short yardage situations. If he can prove he can handle this role, I’d say he has the edge on Bolden, especially after the large pay cut he took to come here.