The New England Patriots have plenty of running backs with varying styles to play with next season; now, it’s just a matter of how to deploy them best.
If the New England Patriots can utilize their plethora of running backs more properly moving forward, they could have one of the most versatile running attacks in the league between Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, and Brandon Bolden.
Many people were under the impression the Patriots were going for a “thunder and lightning” type of running back duo with Sony Michel and Damien Harris this season (similar to Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara from two seasons ago in New Orleans). But after being drafted in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Harris rarely saw any action during his rookie season.
A running back committee that consists of Sony Michel and Damien Harris gaining yards on the ground, while James White and Rex Burkhead are producing through the air, is exciting to think about to say the least. It would also keep defenses on edge in regards to which back is in the game.
It’s becoming quite predictable when Michel and White are in the game as to whether or not the offense is going to run or pass the ball. It could benefit the Patriots more if they used more of an in-game variety with their players. For example, Burkhead is an elite pass catcher out of the backfield, but he can also get the job done on the ground.
Although one of the main issues with the running attack had a lot to do with the injuries and inconsistent play from the offensive line, the other issue was not having a fullback until Elandon Roberts stepped in somewhere around Week 7 and earned more snaps as the season went on.
The ground game really took a hit in 2019 with James Develin and David Andrews hitting the injured reserve. The Patriots will need to retool their offensive line, obtain a tight end who can seal the edge, and utilize a fullback who can lead the way for the rushing attack to become existent again for the team. This will also make the offense become more balanced as well.
Despite all the issues revolving around the Patriots’ offense, Sony Michel still finished the season with 912 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
That’s only a 19-yard difference between his first two seasons in the league. Everyone was too quick in judging the sophomore season of Michel without considering all the other variables surrounding him.
That said, there’s no real reason why Harris was a healthy scratch in all but two games this season (he played in both Jets games). Harris presumably should see a heavier workload heading into his second year in the league running second-fiddle to Michel.
The wild card in the backfield is Brandon Bolden. Bolden doesn’t get enough credit for his skills as a runner, as he is primarily used as a return specialist for the Patriots. But if it came down to it, the New England Patriots are confident in him to run the ball and produce for the team with consistency. He’s also a capable receiver and security blanket through the air.
Considering how last season went for the New England Patriots’ offensive attack, it seems things could only get better at this point. Hopefully the team will find the right combination at running back in 2020 to kick the ailing offense back into top-gear.