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State of 2016 Patriots Roster: Running Backs Need a Reboot

The New England Patriots running backs left a lot to be desired in 2015 and the position will have to be addressed over the offseason.

The Patriots offense operates with two different types of backs: rushing backs and receiving backs. The team suffered crucial injuries to their top player in each role, which really impacted how effective the running game could perform down the final stretch of the season.

LeGarrette Blount finished the season as the team's leading rusher with 703 yards on 165 attempts (4.3 yards per carry) and 6 touchdowns. Dion Lewis picked up 234 yards on 49 rushes (4.8 YPC) and Brandon Bolden collected 207 yards on 63 carries (3.3 YPC). No other player cracked 60 yards on the ground, which is a major indictment on the rushing attack.

Over the course of the season, the running backs combined for 1,301 yards and 11 touchdowns on 335 rushes (3.9 yards per carry), while contributing 1,043 yards and 9 touchdowns on 103 receptions and 143 targets (10.1 yards per reception). This comes to 2,344 yards and 20 touchdowns on 478 attempts.

In total, the New England rushing attack was overshadowed by their ability in the receiving game.

Rushing Backs

Player 9/1/16 Age Exp FA FA Type 2016 Cap APY
Steven Jackson 33.1 12 2016 UFA $970,000.00
LeGarrette Blount 29.7 6 2016 UFA $865,000.00
Tyler Gaffney 25.4 2 2018 UFA $600,000.00 $579,150.00
Joey Iosefa 25.2 1 2017 ERFA

Blount still has plenty of tread left on his tires, but he left a lot to be desired during the 2015 season. He was indecisive in the backfield and unwilling to lower his shoulder. While some of the blame should fall on the offensive line for their inability to create the most basic of rushing lanes, it was obvious when Blount was and wasn't willing to drive the ball in the lane.

Jackson was a one-year rental, while Gaffney hasn't been able to play for two straight years. Iosefa is likely just a camp body in a perfect world.

There happen to be plenty of rushing backs available in free agency this season (we'll address them closer to free agency) and in the draft, so the Patriots don't have an excuse when it comes to improving this position. Don't expect Jackson or Blount to return, or for Gaffney to be anything more than a camp body.

Receiving Backs

Player 9/1/16 Age Exp FA FA Type 2016 Cap APY
Brandon Bolden 26.6 4 2017 UFA $1,263,125.00 $1,160,000.00
Dion Lewis 25.9 5 2018 UFA $1,087,500.00 $1,300,000.00
James White 24.6 2 2018 UFA $699,272.00 $654,272.00

On the other hand, the Patriots receiving backs should be in a good position moving forward. Dion Lewis will be returning from a torn ACL, which is no longer a death sentence for careers, and White will have another year in the system. Bolden is a great special teams player that will hopefully not have to lineup as a wide receiver due to injuries. This is a young group of players.

Lewis should slide back into the roster as the top receiving back and his electric performance will be welcomed. The Patriots were unable to run the ball once he was gone as Lewis was able to hit the edge at a fast enough speed to force a defender to miss. No other back on the roster had that capability.

White was underutilized, or oddly utilized, as the coaching staff thought he'd be better off catching deep passes instead of wheel routes or screen passes. Hopefully the coaching staff will figure out how to better utilize White's strengths in 2016.

The Patriots are set at this position for the next few seasons and shouldn't have to add anything more than a camp body until Lewis returns from injury.