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Patriots RB Brandon Bolden deserves his time in the spotlight

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Bolden could be a solid starter on a different team. So why is he the fifth man on the Patriots running back depth chart?

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden has had a pretty amazing NFL career. He signed with the team as an undrafted free agent rookie in 2012 and has been on the active roster ever since. While he’s primarily been a special teams ace, he’s also provided valuable depth on offense as a player capable of both running the ball, catching the ball, and blocking.

“Brandon’s been a very dependable and versatile player for us,” head coach Bill Belichick said after Saturday’s playoff victory over the Tennessee Titans. “He’s been able to play on all four downs. He can carry the ball on early downs. He can play on third down, pass protection, catch the ball well, and he’s one of our top special team players. He’s really a valuable guy for us in a lot of different roles.”

With offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia on the staff, Bolden averages 4.98 yards per carry on 129 attempts (he averaged 3.18 yards per carry under offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo). He’s also caught 51 career passes for 410 yards. In a lot of other circumstances, Bolden could be an ideal #2 or #3 running back in a rotation due to his versatility.

Instead, he finds himself as the fifth man on the Patriots depth chart because he’s not as good of a receiver or blocker as Dion Lewis, James White, or Rex Burkhead, or not as strong of a runner as Lewis, Burkhead, or Mike Gillislee. But he’s able to contribute on special teams and that’s why he’s always active on game day.

“I love Brandon,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said after the Titans game. “He’s just a great teammate, friend. He’s just a great person. Someone I’ve been in a lot of meetings with and a lot of walkthroughs and a lot of games with. You have those relationships with those guys and when you see them do well when their number is called it’s pretty cool. I’m really happy for him. He deserves it. He’s a really special guy. It was great to see him get in the end zone tonight.”

Bolden carried the ball four times for 27 yards and his first carer playoff touchdown against the Titans. He will probably be relegated back to special teams with Rex Burkhead expected to play in the AFC Championship Game and he might never score for the Patriots in the postseason again.

But Bolden embodies everything that makes the Patriots successful. He’s someone on the back-end of the roster that steps up when the opportunity is given, that contributes on special teams, that is always ready to play, and is always giving his highest effort.

“Until you need him, it doesn’t seem like that much,” Belichick added about Bolden. “Then when you need him, it’s a lot, and it’s hard to find players like that that can step up into those critical roles – pass protection, ball handling, tough yards on the goal line, things like that – without getting a lot of reps, without getting the multiple opportunities and just step in there and do it the way he does it.

“We have a lot of guys on the team like that, and he’s a really valuable guy. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he does, but he does a great job for us, and he does a great job with the leadership he gives us in the kicking game with the younger players, with other players that are on the unit. His communication skills and experience and awareness are very good.”

Bolden has 1,368 career yards from scrimmage and 9 career touchdowns with the Patriots. He is a great special teams player. He deserves his time in the spotlight.