The New England Patriots currently have a host of eight running backs on the roster. Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen are returning members, and there are five additions to the squad- Ben Bartholomew, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Leon Washington, and George Winn; only one of those named has previously been on a Patriots roster.
Out of those running backs, it’s fairly safe to say that Stevan Ridley , Brandon Bolden, and Shane Vereen will be on the roster at the end of cuts during preseason, while the other five must all earn their spot on the team during training camp and in the preseason. During this article, we’ll be taking a brief look at those backs who find themselves on the bubble (I’ll be digging deeper into some of them as the offseason goes on). We’ll start with Ben Bartholomew.
Bartholomew went undrafted out of Tennessee, and was picked up as a UDFA by the Pats on May 3rd of this year. Sitting at 6’2”, 252 pounds, Bartholomew played fullback and had two rushes for ten yards last season with the Vol’s. Surprisingly, however, Bartholomew had 11 catches for 102 yards last season; a score which isn’t too shabby for a fullback.
Bart, as his friends call him, is known for being passionate about knocking someone over- and that’s certainly a characteristic that you want out of a player whose primary job is to do just that.
Being in an already-crowded backfield, paired with the fact that New England didn’t keep any fullbacks at all last season, makes Bart’s chances of making the 53-man roster slimmer, but as long as he works hard in training camp, and shows improvement as the preseason progresses, he stands a chance at impressing the coaches and making the cut.
LeGarrette Blount is one of the better known running backs that New England added this offseason, and they did so via a trade with Belichick’s friend in Tampa Bay, Greg Schiano, and at an incredibly low price – Jeff Demps (a man who takes track far more seriously than football) and a seventh round draft selection.
Blount started his career off with quite a bang, posting over 1,000 yards and six touchdowns on only 201 carries- and in only 13 games- but his career with the Bucs was all downhill from there and Blount lost his starting job to Doug Martin last season, though he still put up a nice 151 yards on 41 carries, plus two scores.
Known primarily for being a hardnosed runner, a role that Brandon Bolden has taken in New England for the time being, Blount will have to show that he can consistently get the short yardage carries. He also needs to display an ability to pass-block from time to time and show that he can do it better than Bolden can. The fact that the Patriots traded for Blount only increases his chances of making the final roster.
James Develin, another large body for a runner at 6’3” and 251 pounds, is the only back on the bubble who has any experience on a Patriots roster before; he played one game in 2012, where he didn’t do much of anything at all.
Being in only his second year, there’s not much known about Develin, and what little experience he has on the team doesn’t give him any significant advantage over any of the other backs on the roster. He’ll have to show that he can be better than all the other backs on the bubble, and I’d be shocked if he did.
Leon Washington was grabbed as a free agent by the Patriots during the offseason after the Seahawks decided not to re-sign the 30 year-old return specialist. Drafted in 2006 by the Jets, Washington found himself getting significant reps during his first season, but has since been used primarily as a return man.
Washington has scored 8 times as a returner in his seven seasons in the league to go along with his 18 touchdowns from receiving and rushing, and has a fairly impressive 4.7 yards per carry average.
Washington’s best chance to make the roster is as a return man for the Patriots, especially considering that Edelman- the current primary return man- is competing for the #2 receiver spot. If Edelman lands that spot on the depth chart, the Patriots will want to keep him from receiving too much damage, and that could mean open competition for the returner spot.
As a rookie out of Cincinnati, George Winn is one of my favorite undrafted free agents that New England signed. Originally signed by the Texans on April 28th, Winn was waived and found himself picked up by New England on June 17th.
With great vision and surprising power, Winn reminds me quite a bit of a taller Danny Woodhead, and he posted 1,334 yards and reached pay dirt 13 times last season with the Bearcats. He also gained over 100 yards in 8 of his 13 games.
Winn showed fairly good pass protection in Cincy and also appears to be fairly good on a draw play, which are two things that the Patriots certainly demand from their runners. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the Patriots decide to keep Winn and groom him during the coming years, and he shows plenty of potential to be a solid third down back in my eyes. He’d have to be impressive during training camp, but it seems entirely feasible to me that he makes the squad in the end.