Danny Woodhead is a scrappy player that exudes his heart and passion for football on the field in every game. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield makes him a great receiving running back as he can make plays in the open field. He can also be counted on occasionally as a third-down back, picking up critical yards in short down situation despite his small stature.
So, naturally, Patriots fans gasped when they heard Woodhead bolted to the San Diego Chargers on a two-year contract. While Woodhead always gave 100 percent effort and was effective in the Patriots’ offense, his production can be easily replaced.
The New England Patriots currently have three traditional running backs in the form of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden. All three young running backs carried the ball at a high level when their name was called in 2012.
The 24-year old Ridley was the starting running back and amassed 1,263 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns, emerging as one of the best running backs in the conference.
Vereen, at 23, proved to be a reliable backup running back, rushing for 251 yards and three touchdowns on just 62 rushing attempts. Vereen also had eight receptions for 149 yards, including a memorable 83-yard touchdown catch-and-run against the New York Jets on Thanksgiving night.
Injuries and a four-game suspension limited the action for the 24-year old Bolden. When Bolden was healthy, he proved to be a bruising running back, rushing for an impressive 4.9 yards per carry. In 56 rushing attempts, he ran 274 yards and two touchdowns.
Ridley, Vereen and Bolden are all reliable running backs that can carry the ball when needed, making the Patriots rushing attack much better than in recent years. All three of these backs have the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, but the Patriots also have two other internal options that could line up in the backfield and make plays in the passing game.
Olympic medalist Jeff Demps and the newly acquired Leon Washington are both special teams players that can provide a boost at the running back position with their blazing speed.
As the primary running back for the Florida Gators, Demps rushed for nearly 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns in his four year college career. More importantly, he had 57 receptions for 481 yards, displaying his ability to receive the ball as a halfback.
Washington is no stranger to being a receiving running back. He has hauled in 146 receptions, recording a 7.7 average per catch, while also accumulating a whopping 1,127 receiving yards with two touchdowns in seven years in the NFL. Demps and Washington will provide a legitimate passing attack in the backfield in the Patriots’ offense.
The three primary backs — Ridley, Vereen and Bolden — and the two return specialists — Demps and Washignton — will fill the void left by Woodhead’s departure to San Diego.