Can New England be trusted in the racing game?


The Patriots have an overcrowded backfield in 2020, but can it be trusted?

A good quarterback can take you very high. Legend of the Patriots Tom brady proved it in New England for years. For the most part, Brady didn’t need a top-notch racing game to find this success, but he’s Tom Brady and everyone is everyone. Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Kurt Warner have benefited from a solid running game that has distracted them. Keeping the race running keeps linebackers frozen and slows down passing runners.

Cam Newton is going to need some help in the running game in his first season with the Patriots, as immense pressure falls on his shoulders. So… is he going to have it?

It’s a good question. There are question marks on the offensive line, especially with regard to depth and experience. To add to this, Sony Michel collapsed in second grade.

Michel’s production dropped sharply in 2019. He dropped from 4.5 meters per attempt as a rookie to 3.7. Despite 38 more carries in 2019 than in 2018, he had 19 fewer yards during the season.

It is clear that Bill Belichick recently saw this as a concern, since he presented Lamar miller just a few weeks ago, who immediately landed on the PUP list alongside Michel. They’re both off this list now, but you can’t afford additional injuries during a pandemic like this because you never know when a particular player might be lost to illness.

This anxiety about depth may be the reason Belichick brought in a running back after an ACL tear, which was arguably his career down before the injury.

Besides Michel and Miller, there are four running backs on the list. Jacques Blanc, which is always a great receiving option, has never been used much as a runner. In fact, he’s never gained more than 425 yards in a rushing season.

To accompany White, the Patriots have yet Rex Burkhead. Burkhead has been around for a few seasons now and is a very capable back. However, it does not instill fear in the defenses. Then there is Jj taylor, an extremely undersized scat back, who has been compared to Dion Lewis. The comparisons are interesting, but Taylor is an untested rookie and there’s no proof of concept in there. Finally, there is Damien harris, who has had a quiet rookie season, but seems to have more reps this offseason.

It’s not a lot to get really excited in the backfield. It’s a backfield that demands Miller to be healthy and Michel to get back into shape. This forces Burkhead to handle more races, and hopefully the committee approach doesn’t make play calls predictable, which it has done in the past. It’s a backfield that requires a healthy offensive line, which lacks depth behind the starters, during a pandemic.

All of this is enough to make you nervous about the racing game.

Now, it’s important to remember that a key part of Newton’s style of play is his ability to throw the ball from the quarterback position. It has been a blessing and a curse. He’s forcing the defense to adopt a game plan for added momentum, but has also suffered a growing string of injuries as a result. New England cannot afford to lose Newton, as over time, Jarrett stidham bECOMES less and less viable as a quarterback.

If Newton can stay healthy, his ability to lead football could cover a number of gaps here. However, that’s a huge “if” at this point. You need him in good health and to start football, above all.

So the reality is you know you can’t lean on Newton as a runner. You need a healthy offensive line. You need every running back to be better last year than this year. There are many reasons to be concerned about the Patriots racing game.


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