New England Patriots: Running back injuries could impact Week 10 contest

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden (25) Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

The New England Patriots will play the Cleveland Browns at home in a very important Week 10 matchup. However, they may be without two of their top running backs due to injury, and it could end up having a significant affect on the game.

Against the Carolina Panthers in Week 9, the Patriots’ two top runners, Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson, were both dinged up and are currently in the concussion protocol.

It’s a tough blow to a Patriots team that has been a run-first then pass squad as it has turned its season around with three straight wins.

New England Patriots running back injuries will set the offense back

Both Harris and Stevenson being must pass a five-step process to get back into game condition. These steps are outlined in detail by

There is no set period as each player is handled individually. For the sake of this discussion (and likelihood), let’s assume that both Harris and Stevenson will be out.

Their loss would be a tough break for a New England team that can grind down an opponent with its several backs who can slash and gash.

Once New England made adjustments to their offensive line, the running game has come to life and been an offensive staple in their recent victories.

Harris, a slashing back, has gained 547 yards and is averaging 4.1 yards per carry. More importantly, he has been a touchdown machine, as he has hit paydirt seven times so far this season, including six times over the last five games.

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Meanwhile Stevenson, after being in the Bill Belichick doghouse after just one fumble early in the season, was just beginning to break out.

Stevenson is a big bruising back, yet he is surprisingly nimble for his size and also a very adept pass-catcher out of the backfield or even split wide.

Touted here as a favorite and one of their best 2021 draft picks, Stevenson showed his talent with a 41-yard catch and run against Carolina.

Stevenson had 106 all-purpose yards last weekend, with 62 coming by ground and the other 44 coming by air.

Combine that with Harris’ slashing running style and the surprising emergence of Brandon Bolden, and the Patriots were employing a running game that can do some serious damage.

New England Patriots must keep the running game effective

Now that much of running game is sidelined, it will be of the utmost importance for New England’s coaching staff to retool its resources and ensure that the ground game can still be an option for however long these two guys are out.

Able to be deployed are the aforementioned Bolden, a huge surprise this season who has done a nice job replacing the catching prowess of the out-for-the-year superb James White.

Bolden had 84 all-purpose yards against Carolina, with 54 coming on the ground and the other 27 coming off of two catches out of the backfield.

Bolden will have to continue to put up those numbers if New England is to continue to rely on its backs to carry the offense. Unfortunately, a mediocre cast of wide receivers necessitates that they do just that.

J.J. Taylor, the diminutive but speedy and surprisingly powerful running back, will have to be brought back into the gameday backfield against Cleveland if Harris and Stevenson cannot go.

With Bolden and Taylor, the Patriots have two decent backs, but virtually no true running back depth whatsoever.

An injury to either would be devastating and put all the more pressure on rookie quarterback Mac Jones to carry the offense with his pinpoint passing primarily to Bolden and his tight ends.

After cutting fullback Ben Mason recently, the Patriots’ only other back on the roster is Jacob Johnson and he’s another fullback.

Inexplicably and unquestionably shortsightedly, there’s no additional running back depth, even on their practice squad.

Being woefully thin at the position now, absent bringing back Mason or bringing in a waiver-wire type, they had better hope for no additional injuries.

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On the other side for Cleveland, they may be without their own bell-cow back, the superb runner Nick Chubb who has tested positive for Covid. His availability is uncertain.

So the New England Patriots now have to improvise with the likely loss of two very effective backs, including their best short-yardage back, Stevenson.

We’ll see how they adjust. Just how effectively they do will likely make all the difference in the outcome of the game against Cleveland.