Smart. Prepared. Good communicator. Four-down player.
If you ask Bill Belichick about Brandon Bolden, those adjectives often follow.
They did again in the New England Patriots head coach’s press conference at Gillette Stadium on Monday. And while it’s unclear just how many more Mondays Bolden has left at the facility, it is clear why the veteran running back is there now.
He’s a 5-foot-11, 220-pound archetype of what it takes to make the 53-man roster.
“Brandon’s played for us on all three downs. He’s played on early downs, he’s played in sub situations. He’s a smart player, has a good set of skills,” Belichick said, via Patriots.com. “He can run, he can catch, he can pass protect. He’s given us a lot of production and leadership in the kicking game.
“He does a good job in the room – whether it be in the running back room or the special teams room – of being prepared, helping out the younger guys,” Belichick continued. “He’s a good communicator, so things on the punt team, punt return where things can happen pretty fast and you need to make some adjustments – he’s good with that. Very good in blitz pickup, and in his understanding of the passing game. He’s a four-down player – three-down offensive player with versatility in the kicking game and all different phases.”
Safe to say Belichick thinks No. 38 is an OK guy to have around.
Bolden has been since signing on as an undrafted rookie in 2012.
The Ole Miss product has appeared in 67 regular-season games for the Patriots, starting six. He’s carried the ball 203 times for 845 yards and six touchdowns. He’s caught the ball 46 times for 366 yards and two touchdowns. He’s been tackled and he’s made 19. He’s never fumbled – outside of the preseason – but he’s recovered one and forced three. He’s blocked pass-rushers and a punt.
To the best of his ability, Bolden has done what’s been asked of him. Though, as 2016 illustrated, there’s less for him to do when the offensive-tailored backs ahead of him stay healthy. Bolden was on the field for just 13 offensive snaps last season – handling one run and two receptions for a total of 19 yards – and yet he factored into 59 percent of plays in the kicking game before re-signing a month into free agency.
As for how much of a factor Bolden will be moving forward, we’ll have to check back on Sept. 2.
Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster and undrafted Iowa Hawkeye LeShun Daniels Jr. make up the rest of the current depth chart. The first four don’t figure to be leaving it anytime soon. And the fifth, Foster, has scored touchdowns by ground and by air through the Patriots’ first two preseason games, and was valued enough as a back-slash-wideout to remain on the active roster for all but six days last winter.
It’s a steep hill to climb. The dimensions of talent are deep. The skillsets range across the board.
“I think there’s good competition there, absolutely,” Belichick said of the Patriots’ backs. “I think there’s real good competition. They’re all a little bit different. They’re not really apples to apples.”
Bolden, who – through 33 snaps on offense and 16 on special teams – has 66 rushing yards and 24 receiving yards this August, is familiar with the situation. The 27-year-old is the longest-tenured member of the committee, and has survived enough cutdowns to know what it takes to hold that title.
Just ask his coach. He’s a fan.