Like 2017, the 2018 Patriots running backs will be one of the most talented groups on the team. Despite losing Dion Lewis to the Titans in free agency, the Patriots will have plenty of options to support Tom Brady as runners, receivers, and blockers. The following is a quick breakdown of the current running backs on the roster. It is unlikely that all will make it onto the final roster.
*Note: while this is a “depth chart”, the Patriots use a committee of running backs, and who the “starter” is could simply depend on who they are playing and what the best matchup to start is.*
Burkhead enters his second season in New England after a decent 2017 campaign that could have been even better had it not been marred with injuries. He ran for over 260 yards and five touchdowns in just 10 games last season, along with 254 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. He is a solid dual-threat, three-down running back that gives the Patriots diversity on offense. While he may not be a bell-cow back, he is a shifty runner who can make plays and give New England’s offense a spark when needed. If he can stay healthy, he should have an even better year in 2018.
The former Super Bowl hero is coming off of a very productive 2018 season that saw him post his highest career rushing yard total at 171 yards, and his second highest career receiving yard total at 429 yards. He also posted his highest catch percentage at 77.8% (besides his rookie year when he caught 100%, but only caught five passes). Now naturally those numbers don’t blow anyone out of the water, but they should be taken with context. White carried the ball a career-high 43 times and still managed to average over four yards per-carry. He is not a primary, two-down running back, but still manages to produce well when the Patriots hand him the ball. He is also one of the best receiving backs in the league. He will play a valuable role in the Patriots offense in 2018.
The former Bengal is coming off of the quietest year of his career, only playing in seven games and amassing just 161 rushing yards on 37 carries. He was essentially replaced after Cincinnati drafted Joe Mixon in the 2017 draft. Hill has great size and knows how to run with it, which will allow him to help fill LeGarrette Blount’s old role as the Patriots goal line back. He could also benefit greatly running behind Patriots fullback James Develin, who will be able to open up significant running lanes. Hill is essentially a reclamation project, here on a one year “prove it” type deal for him to show that he has the ability to be a starting back in the NFL. While his roster spot is by no means a lock, his talent level means he has a good shot to play a role in the Patriots 2018 offense.
Gillislee is entering his second, and likely last year in New England. After signing an offer sheet with the Patriots as a restricted free agent, many were expecting big things from him heading into 2017. It looked like he was going to deliver after posting 114 yards and four touchdowns over the first two games. He would go on to play in just seven games for the rest of the season, spending most of 2017 as a healthy scratch. Gillislee is certainly talented, but for some reason did not seem to be a great fit in New England. It is possible that this had to do with the reemergence of vintage Dion Lewis. However, spending over $2 million in cap space on someone who spends most of the year on the bench seems like a poor use of resources.
The Patriots first-round pick out of Georgia should have New England fans excited for 2018. He is the most talented three-down back that the Patriots have had in a very long time, and could bring the Patriots offense to new heights. He is a powerful downfield runner who is going to be able to break tackles and give the Patriots running game an attitude. While he does not have the finesse or elusiveness that Dion Lewis had, his north-south running style is going to get big chunks of yardage on every play, especially behind the Patriots revamped interior offensive line.
Bolden is almost exclusively a special teams player. However, I will include him in this list because he does step in as the Patriots main runner from time to time. While he is by no means a number one running back in the NFL, he has ability and is able to produce when called upon, giving the Patriots valuable depth. He is also a fantastic special teams player.
This could be a special unit for New England, potentially even better than the 2017 group. It should be fun to watch.
Until next time – B$