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Tuesday, 03 December 2013 04:11

New England Patriots: The Plan at Running Back

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The New England Patriots find themselves at 9-3 on the NFL season. It hasn't always been pretty.  It hasn't been perfect.  It has been entertaining.  If the Patriots hope to continue deep into the playoffs and ultimately hoist the Lombardi trophy, a team effort is needed.  The most important aspect of the team will be the running game.  With Stevan Ridley a healthy scratch (or benching) because of ball security issues, it looks to be running back by committee. While I don't believe we have seen the last of Ridley, he will need time to work his way back from the doghouse.  Let's take a look at the four players who tote the rock for New England.  Stevan Ridley 135 carries 576 yards 7 touchdowns.  Easily the most talented runner among the four half backs on the roster. The well documented issue is the fumbles. While Ridley is not a burner, he's not a dancer either. He usually make the correct read and gets positive yards. When he gets in trouble it's when he tries to do too much. His fumble versus the Broncos was on a play that never should have happened.  The blocking assignment was blown up by Broncos linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Instead of just taking the no gain he tried to spin away resulting in his elbows coming up and the ball being jarred out.  Ridley is too important to sit the rest of the year. A week off might be what the third year running back needs to get his head back in the game.   LeGarrette Blount 94 carries 418 yards 3 touchdowns  On draft day the Patriots sent speedster Jeff Demps and a seventh round draft pick to the Bucceneers for Blount. What a trade that was. While Blount is nothing more than a runner he consistently falls forward.  He may never be the 1,000 yard back he was his rookie year.  He has been a strong second back for the team.  He continues to make a play a game were you just say wow, what a run. His workload high came week three against his former team when he carried the ball 14 times.  In all he's averaging eight carries per game for 35 yards.  He will continue to get the ball to close out games and when the team needs to give the lead back a breather.  Brandon Bolden 54 carries 265 yards 3 touchdowns  The numbers look good. He's averaging almost five yards per carry.  He's made some decent catches but it's all window dressing. He has two long carries on the season.  One for 46 yards against the Buccaneers and  one for 33 yards versus the Broncos. Both plays were blocked very well. Take out those two carries and Bolden is averaging 3.57 yards per touch. He is a below average at best professional running back.  His one endearing quality is he does not put the ball on the ground. The question becomes is the low production worth the ball security?  If Bolden is your starter in the playoffs, opponents are getting a brake.  Shane Vereen 35 carries 177 yards.  Imagine the numbers if he was healthy all season. He is the best pass catching back the Patriots have.  28 catches in four games is nothing to sneeze at.  Vereen got the majority of playing time Sunday in the absence of Ridley. Couple that with his week one performance after Ridley fumbled. He is the most explosive back the team has.  If he has one limitation it is he does not run as well between the tackles as the other backs. Before the Texans game, if Vereen was in the game it was most likely a pass. If he can develop more as an every down back than the Pats are in good shape.  The Patriots had an obvious plan coming into the season. Ridley would be the lead back with Blount as his back up. Vereen would be used as a change of pace and pass catching back. Injuries and lack of ball security have stopped that.  The Patriots need that plan to work if they have any hope of winning the final game of the season on what promises to be a cold and perhaps snowy February football game.  
Jeff Kane

Jeff Kane is the Patriots Beat Manager for CLNS Radio He is the lead host for Patriots Beat and Host of the Patriots Post Game Show. His quick-witted style and knowlege of the New England Patriots are some of his endearing qualities to CLNS listeners.

Jeff is a lifelong Boston sports fan who grew up right outside of Boston. His passion for the New England Patriots dates back to watching his first game in 1984. Jeff grew up with love for the Larry Bird led Celtics, watching games after his bedtime with his father Chuck.

A self describe football know-it-all. Jeff says his favorite sports memories are the Snow Bowl Game and attending game one of the NBA playoffs with his father in 2008.

Jeff currently resides in New Hampton, New Hampshire with his Wife Michelle and his two sons Connelly and Saygen.

Jeff can be reached by email: jkane@clnsradio.com

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