With opening day still three months away and the mandatory portion of the initial wave of offseason workouts over, we have entered the more quiet parts of the NFL offseason. However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop.
During workouts and OTAs, players still have a chance to lay the foundation for their spots on the team. Over the course of the next few months, we will take a look at the men fighting for them on the 2017 New England Patriots. 53 of currently 90 players will be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we’ll continue the series with a recently re-signed special teamer.
Name: Brandon Bolden
Position: Running back
Jersey number: 38
Opening day age: 27
Size: 5’11, 220 lbs.
2016 review: With fellow running back Dion Lewis starting the season on the sidelines, Brandon Bolden was the number two receiving back behind James White - at least on paper. In reality, though, he saw only a handful of offensive opportunities and instead was mostly used in the kicking game.
Overall, Bolden appeared in 14 regular season games and all three playoff contests. During those games, he played a mere 13 snaps on offense - none coming after week 7. When used as a running back, Bolden carried the football once for four yards and caught two passes for an additional 15.
While his offensive contributions were marginal, Bolden was a regular on special teams and played the fifth-most snaps on the team in the kicking game: He was on the field for 265 snaps (of 449; 59.0%) during the regular season and 62 (of 93; 57.7%) in the playoffs.
Serving as a front-line blocker and gunner, Bolden finished the regular season with four tackles and a forced fumble. He added two takedowns during the postseason. And while his name was rarely called, Bolden was a valuable contributor on a mostly solid special teams unit.
2017 preview: After the 2016 season, Bolden became an unrestricted free agent. After a slow period on the open market, he re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year, $775,000 contract. And while the deal is team-friendly, whether he actually will make New England’s final 53-man roster is questionable, however.
As of right now, the team has three roster locks at the running back position and one of them - free agency acquisition Rex Burkhead - is projected to play a similar role as Bolden: A regular special teams contributor, but with more upside as a rotational running back. Bolden will not beat out Burkhead and therefore must prove his still-existing value as a core special teamer or rotational running back.
The odds, however, are against the 27-year old. As noted above, three running backs as well as fullback James Develin are already penciled in as members of the Patriots’ 2017 roster. Dion Lewis is the favorite to earn the fourth and likely final spot on the team. As a result, Bolden will likely only serve as injury insurance and might ultimately see his tenure in New England come to an end during roster cutdowns.