The New England Patriots will most likely suffer a setback in the passing game in the upcoming season. Even with Tom Brady declaring he “feels more confident than ever throwing the football,” he faces an uphill challenge this year with a new batch of receivers.
In order for the Patriots to remain a potent offense, the running game must be highly effective on a consistent basis. This should not be an issue for a deep and highly skilled running core. The Patriots’ offense dominated on the ground last year, ranking seventh in rushing offense in 2012.
The Patriots’ backfield is loaded as the coaching staff may opt to carry five running backs on the 53-man roster. Stevan Ridley returns as the go-to halfback in the offense after an impressive 2012 season, amassing 1,263 and scoring 12 rushing touchdowns. He is a tackle-shredder that is nearing elite status as a running back, especially if he can better avoid fumbling the football.
Shane Vereen is the back-up running back that has impressive receiving skills out of the backfield. He averaged a whopping 18.6 yards per reception last year as he proved to be a legitimate threat in the passing game.
The other three running backs that could potentially be featured in the 2013 offense are Brandon Bolden and new additions Leon Washington and LeGarrette Blount. All three players have an undetermined role on the offense, but these “wild cards” also all bring a different skill set to the table.
Bolden is a bruising halfback that can break tackles exceptionally well. Washington is expected to be the Patriots’ kick and punt returner, but may be unleashed in the offense because of his blazing speed. Washington has extensive experience running the ball in his career, gaining 2,213 yards on the run and posting 16 rushing touchdowns in his seven years in the NFL. Blount, meanwhile, could prove to be valuable in short-yardage and goal-line situations as he is currently the heaviest running back on the Patriots’ roster at 247 pounds.
The Patriots running game should be feared in 2013 as they may have the deepest running corps in the league.