One of the biggest question marks for the New England Patriots heading into training camp is just how the running back situation is going to play out.
Last year’s breakout star Dion Lewis missed the final nine games of the season after suffering a torn ACL. This came after he put up 622 total yards in the first seven games.
Meanwhile, veteran LeGarrette Blount found himself sidelined for the final four games of the regular year after suffering a December hip injury.
Considering Tom Brady is now suspended for the first four games of the 2016 campaign, the Pats’ running back situation becomes that much more important.
With Jimmy Garoppolo slated to start for the first four games of the season, the team is going to need more production from this unit. After all, New England finished 30th in rushing offense a season ago.
As we’ve seen from Bill Belichick and Co. in the past, this doesn’t mean the team is desperate enough to roster an under-performing veteran that might not be able to hold up his end of the bargain.
According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, this includes the possibility that Blount might not make the final 53-man roster out of camp.
“Running back LeGarrette Blount’s return from a season-ending hip injury, suffered in December, bears watching as it relates to his roster status,” the Patriots beat writer reported. “Blount, who signed a modest one-year deal as a free agent to return in 2016, didn’t practice in the spring. If he returns to full health and runs hard like he did at times in 2015, there shouldn’t be any issues. But that isn’t a given based on the present snapshot.”
The interesting thing to look at here is New England’s depth chart. Behind Lewis and Blount — two players coming off significant injuries — there simply isn’t a whole lot to work with here.
New England did sign veteran Donald Brown in free agency, but he’s unlikely even a short-term option as a consistent producer. Brown, 29, averaged just 3.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons with the San Diego Chargers.
If New England were to part ways with Blount, it’s likely the team would then turn to the watered-down free agent market for a replacement.
Either way, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out during training camp. If Blount is healthy and ready to go, he should break camp with the team. If not, New England’s running back situation will be a bit more unsettled.