So I know LeBron just signed his deal to get back to Cleveland and everything, but listen to me for a second because I have way more exciting news: football season is almost here! Alright maybe that isn’t news per se, but with training camp around the corner, we here at Cover32 New England have taken it upon ourselves to prepare you for the crescendo to the regular season with position-by-position breakdowns for our Pats.
While yesterday we started with the quarterbacks, today I’ll be telling you all how the running back position is looking heading into training camp.
For me, the biggest story at running back is whether or not Stevan Ridley will remain the starter during the season. Ridley is definitely an impact player, carrying the load for over 1,200 yards in 2012, but sometimes that impact is not always positive. The 25-year old runner out of LSU lost a career high four fumbles in 2013 (with three coming in three straight games), and ended up riding the bench to become a spectator to the LeGarrette Blount Show.
New England obviously has other veteran backs in the Swiss-army-knife-versatile Shane Vereen and the rumbling Brandon Bolden. If Vereen can stay healthy, he will see more action as a “joker” type player, catching passes out of the backfield or split out wide (he had 427 yards on 47 receptions last year). Bolden figures to help fill Blount’s role as a short yardage bruiser with sneaky wheels. While both Vereen and Bolden are talented players, they are sure to only factor in as situational or change of pace runners, not starters.
That’s where rookies James White and Stephen Houston come in. White, a fourth round selection out of Wisconsin, is the biggest threat to challenge Ridley for the starting job. With only two career fumbles in college, White brings an interesting combination of tough interior running and reliable pass catching skills. Former Indiana Hoosier Houston is one of New England’s large crop of undrafted rookies, and can make the biggest impact as a power runner in short yardage situations. Depth is always a coveted trait for NFL rosters these days, but these young guns will also help push Ridley and create a competitive environment in training camp.
Said Ridley, “You can go out there and be the starter one game and the next game, you’re two or three guys behind”
Hopefully, those two or three extra guys can join Ridley in an explosive and diverse backfield that won’t fumble, and can help Tom Brady and the offense get back to the promised land.
Follow Eric Pfalzgraf at @Eric_Pfalzgraf
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