The Patriots have a crowded backfield, but who are the locks?
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FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS — When it comes to the congested New England Patriots running back situation in 2021, something will have to go. They won’t all be able to make the final cut.
Begin with the most certain No. 1 choice. Damien Harris, who is “off to a very strong start in preparation for the season,” according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
Then there’s former No. 1 Sony Michel, who didn’t participate in the team’s optional spring workouts but looked impressive at the team’s required minicamp in mid-June.
Mr. Reliable, the “passing back” and sure-handed captain James White, comes returning for his seventh season after signing a one-year contract for $2.5 million.
Rhamondre Stevenson, a 2021 fourth-round draft selection who has garnered early parallels to LeGarrette Blount because of his hard-charging approach at 227 pounds, is the newcomer.
Spark plug with a small diameter According to Patriots assistant coach Ivan Fears, J.J. Taylor continues to rise as a “outstanding make-you-miss kind of back.”
Brandon Bolden, a key special-teamer and versatile backup, seems to be a good chance to make the roster when he returns from a 2020 opt-out.
Damien Harris, the running back for the New England Patriots, has high hopes heading into the season. Getty Images/Adam Glanzman
When the Patriots hit the field for their first training camp session on July 28, the picture demonstrates why running back will be one of the team’s most interesting positions. Whatever happens, it’s a situation that seems to fit into owner Robert Kraft’s category of “first-class” issues, since it’s always preferable to have too many players than not enough, particularly with a 17-game regular season.
The Patriots didn’t select Stevenson 120th overall only to release him a few months later, so Harris and Stevenson are locks. The larger issue with the Oklahoma thug is how soon he can contribute.
“We have a lot of excellent players, so he’ll have to fight someone out if he wants to play. We’re not going to let him off the hook “Stevenson’s fears were expressed in early June. “He gets to watch if he doesn’t deserve it. That’s how it works. This will be decided by him, not by a committee.”
Shane Vereen (2011), White (2014), and Harris (2019) are among the most recent instances of rookie running backs going through a “redshirt” season before becoming significant players for the Patriots.
After leading the club with 691 yards on 137 carries (5.0 average) and two touchdowns last season, Belichick seems happy with Harris’ progress.
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At the end of June’s required minicamp, Belichick stated, “Damien works very hard in all aspects — definitely his fitness and training, running game, throwing game, protection, route running, and receiving the ball.” “He’s got a lot of talent and can contribute in a number of ways, and he’s always trying to improve himself.”
Fears and fellow assistant Vinnie Sunseri (another Alabama graduate) have worked closely with Harris, who has “responded nicely,” according to Belichick.
After Harris and Stevenson, an injury may help clarify the picture, which Fears believes can play a role in a rookie being forced to redshirt. Tyler Gaffney, a veteran, is also in the mix, providing depth throughout training camp and the preseason.
Fears is optimistic about the depth of the running back group and the reloaded offense in general.
“We’ve got a lot of players that know how to play to begin with, and we’ve just acquired some young bodies. When you consider who we’ve added to the rest of the roster, there’s a lot of anticipation “he said
“Out in [spring] practice, this is clear. We need all of this time to prepare them for training camp so that we can become the team we need to be.”
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