Despite being a pass-happy team, the New England Patriots have some very talented running backs on the roster.
The Patriots rounded out their offseason by signing former Indianapolis Colts RB Joseph Addai to add experience to a position that is full of young players.
Second-year backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley were drafted in the second and third rounds in 2011, respectively. Ridley was the only one who made an actual impact with the Patriots, rushing for 441 yards on only 87 carries, sporting an impressive 5.1 YPC average. Vereen carried the ball 15 times for 57 yards and one touchdown. Ridley produced more yards, but both players scored only one touchdown each.
Danny Woodhead is a great story, but he won’t be able to take the wear and tear that an every-down back goes through since he is undersized. Woodhead would make for a great change-of-pace back, complementing the lead RB.
After main RB option BenJarvus Green-Ellis left New England for a starting role on theCincinnati Bengals, many speculated that Ridley, arguably the best back on the roster, would get the lion’s share of touches. But the Patriots changed that when they signed Joseph Addai.
Addai was drafted in the first round by the Colts in 2006. He saw some early success in the NFL, recording back-to-back seasons of 1,000 yards of rushing. However, in recent years, Addai has seen his production drop, as he hasn’t rushed for over 830 yards in a single season since.
Last year, the 29-year-old played in 12 games and carried the ball 118 times for 433 yards, good for a clip of 3.7 YPC.
So this begs the question: Who will start at running back in Week 1? Will it be the younger Ridley or the more experienced and reliable Addai?
Ridley brings a lot to the table: youth, speed, explosiveness and power. He has fresh legs, and his body would likely have no problem shouldering the load as the starter. Ridley showed flashes of brilliance last year, with the longest run for the Patriots at 33 yards. He actually recorded all five runs of 20 or more yards for the Pats.
Addai has a good skill set as well. He has some great experience as a six-year veteran. He’s also the sort of guy who could somewhat fill the void that Green-Ellis left. Addai has a nose for the end zone, averaging 6.5 touchdowns per year for his career. Green-Ellis had scored 24 times over the past two years.
Then again, the Patriots might go the route of running back by committee, spreading the carries throughout the system, implementing all backs.
But this year seems different. It seems like the year that the Pats will go all the way is the year where there is a standout player at every position. Running back doesn’t need to be an overly-dynamic position, but it has the potential to be one.
And that potential lies in Stevan Ridley.