Patriots Offseason Analysis: Running Backs

Image via New England Patriots

During free agency this summer, many Patriots fans wished the team would sign former Chicago Bears RB Matt Forte. He seemed a perfect fit for the team, wise, experienced, versatile, and determined to win a championship. However, it was not in the cards for either Forte or the team, as Forte signed with division rival New York Jets.

Perhaps Patriot fans are tired of an inconsistent running back committee that is far from prolific and exciting. But that just seems to be the way that Coach Belichick has formed the position on the team since the days of Corey Dillon.

In addition, the rather boring and inconsistent style of the committee is partly because of the pass-first scheme that the offense has developed over the years.

Read more about the team’s receivers and frequent pass-play offense.

From @NFL Twitter account.

(Via @NFL Twitter account.)

However, last year an unexpected star broke out early in the season. Dion Lewis dazzled fans with his incredible quick-cuts and ability to make defenders miss. The team quickly extended his contract after his impressive start. Sadly, the excitement was short-lived, Lewis tore his ACL in week 9 against the Redskins after starting only 6 games.

After Lewis tore his ACL, it was back to LeGarrette Blount as the lead back. He is a completely different breed altogether than Lewis, he weighs 55 more pounds and cannot create running room for himself like Lewis can.

Blount needs quality blocking in order to build speed going into the secondary, if he gets that, the defensive backs have a hard time bringing him down. However, with the low quality of the team’s offensive line, he didn’t get many opportunities to do that.

Read more about the offensive line.

Besides Blount, the team had James White, Brandon Bolden, and for a short while, Joey Iosefa. White was used almost solely for passing purposes, such as wheel routes and check-downs. Bolden, on the other hand, is used more on special teams and is incredibly inconsistent when given opportunities to run the ball in a game.

Iosefa showed off his strength when he absolutely ran over Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh at the line of scrimmage and continued to run for 15 yards a first down. Besides that play, he didn’t make much noise the rest of the season.

After discussing the quality of the committee after Lewis was injured, it is easy to see why Patriot fans wanted the team to sign Matt Forte. Instead, the Patriots signed Donald Brown, formerly of the San Diego Chargers.

There was buzz about how Brown was a perfect Patriot signing when it happened, but since then, there hasn’t been much excitement at all about him. In fact, it is still unclear whether or not he will even make the team.

Not all hope is lost, however. Dion Lewis has recovered from his injury and videos of him at training camp have leaked out. He appears to have regained his ability to make quick cuts, Patriots nation will be excited to see him return in the regular season.

dj foster

(Image Via @Bdenny29)

Additionally, the team signed rookie free agent D.J. Foster out of Arizona State after the draft. Foster has quick feet, he ran a 4.47 40-yard dash at his pro day and had the ability to elude defenders at the line of scrimmage or after a catch.

Foster, a running back for Arizona State for his first three years, moving to a slot-receiver role for his senior season. Being able to come out of the back field and make receptions surely made him appealing to the team. Versatility is incredibly important to Coach Belichick, and D.J. Foster seems to have it.

Going into training camp this July, it will be interesting to see whether or not Foster makes the team. After not being overly impressed with James White last season, I would like to see what Foster can do for the offense.

My prediction for the running back committee this coming season is Blount, Lewis, White, Bolden, and Foster. I think it is safe to say that we are all hoping that Lewis comes back just as explosive and prolific as he was before his injury.

 

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