Sometimes youth can have negative repercussions for a team. That shouldn’t be an excuse when it comes to holding on to the ball, though. The New England Patriots have one of the youngest assembly of running backs in the NFL, but also one of the most turnover-prone groups in the league. Holding on to the ball is something the team can’t be worried about if they want to make it to the Super Bowl in 2014.
Next year marks the second year of the LeGarrette Blount experiment in Foxboro. Blount, age 27, didn’t really jump onto the scene for the Patriots until later in the season last year. As a former 1,000-yard rusher for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I expect to see him have more of a prominent role in the Patriots running game the entire 2014 season. Not only did he average a team-high five yards per carry, but also helped the Patriots score seven touchdowns on the ground in only two playoff games, as opposed to 19 in 16 regular season games.
But, with less playing time than running mate Stevan Ridley (age 25), Blount had the same amount of fumbles. They both had three, Ridley losing all three while Blount lost two. I’m sure that’s not something head coach Bill Belichick wants from his premiere backs. I know it’s not because Ridley got benched at points throughout the season because of his fumbling woes.
Even with the periodic benching and the missing of two games due to injury, Ridley led the team with 773 rushing yards on 55.2 yards per game. That’s only two good games away from reaching the century mark! Blount on the other hand, had 772 yards on 25 less carries than Ridley. These two, along with Brandon Bolden (age 24), and Shane Vereen (age 24) have a ton of upside heading into the 2014 season.
Last year, the Patriots rushing attack was ninth in the league in total yards (2,065), and yards per carry (4.4). It was also tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns across the league with 19. But, the number combined fumbles of these runners was also no joke. They were tied for fifth-most in fumbles in the league with 10, and tied for the third-most fumbles lost with six.
With more ball security by these young running backs, there’s no reason why the Patriots shouldn’t have a top-5 rushing attack in 2014. Blount will be more comfortable with the offense while Vereen, who missed eight games last season, will hopefully play a full season, along with Ridley.
Adding Bolden into the mix will only help. I’m sure we’ll see an improved running game by the Patriots in 2014; and dare I say it, might see them have the best rushing attack in all of football, barring injuries and those dreadful fumbles.