New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee most likely to lead crowded backfield

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04: Mike Gillislee
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04: Mike Gillislee /

New England Patriots running back Mike Gillislee will have an opportunity to make a big impact on his new team.  He could fill the void left by LeGarrette Blount. 

Of the new players the New England Patriots added this offseason, ESPN’s Mike Reiss believes running back Mike Gillislee will have the greatest impact of the team’s free agent additions in 2017.

While Stephon Gilmore and Rex Burkhead will certainly contribute in their roles, Gillislee will really have an opportunity to secure a role left vacant by LeGarrette Blount.  It will be some big shoes to fill, but the former Buffalo Bills running back has the tools to become even more effective than Blount.

His downhill running ability as well as his yards after contact average will make him a tough guy to bring down.  The Patriots certainly saw first-hand accounts of that when they faced him twice while he was with the Bills in 2016.

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In fact, his yards after contact is what makes him a better option than Blount was this past season.  According to Pro Football Focus, his 3.3 average yards after contact per attempt ranked him second in the league.  Blount, on the other hand, averaged just 2.5 yards after contract per attempt.

Burkhead, the team’s other free agent running back, was impressive in that category also with a 3.0 average.  The competition provided by Burkhead and Dion Lewis should be great, but I do agree with Reiss in Gillislee’s ability to make the biggest impact in the Patriots offense this season.

Only hard work will pay off

In making the jump from the Bills to the Patriots, Gillislee knows what is expected of him and appears up for the challenge.  He knows hard work will earn him a big role. Combine that with what he is capable of on the field and the Patriots may have a more dynamic weapon out of the backfield.

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Running backs coach Ivan Fears likes what he has seen of Gillislee prior to him joining the Patriots.

"“Let’s put it this way.  I like that he was productive on film.  That’s all,” Fears said back in May, via Patriots Wire.  “I like that he made things happen.  Now, let’s see what he does here.  He’s got to show us what he’s going to be here.  He did a good job in Buffalo – whatever they did, it was fine.  That’s last year, let’s see what he gets done here.  Let’s see what he can do for us.  I’m not going to close my mind to anything he could possibly do or possibly be.  I’m going to let him show it out on the game field.  I think he’s got a lot of talent, so let’s see what he puts out.”"

In 2016, Mike Gillislee rushed for 577 yards on 101 carries.  His eight rushing touchdowns as well as his performance against the New England Patriots was enough for the team to pry him away from their AFC East rivals.

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He will certainly have the opportunity, but whether or not he has the type of impact Reiss and myself feels he can have is totally up to his work ethic off and on the field.