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Patriots Position Snapshot: Running Backs

In the lead-up to training camp, we’re inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the running backs.


In the lead-up to training camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the running backs.

IN THE MIX: Tyler Gaffney


The Patriots offensive backfield will have a familiar look in 2021, with the only big change coming in the form of Rex Burkhead's free agency departure to Houston and Rhamondre Stevenson's arrival via the fourth round of the draft.

Sony Michel and Damien Harris headline the early-down runners, as both had promising seasons in 2020 that were hampered by injuries. Harris started and ended his season on Injured Reserve, but had a 10-game stretch in the middle that saw him post 691 rushing yards on 137 attempts, good enough for a 5.04 yards-per-attempt average. His 121 yards against the Ravens was the highlight of his season as he broke 100 yards three different times.

Michel was held to a career-low nine games in 2020, but had a strong finish to the season, posting a 6.08 yards-per-attempt average in the final three games of the season, while rushing for 219 yards and snagging his first career receiving touchdown. When both are healthy, Harris and Michel should be a dynamic one-two punch for the offense.

James White re-signed with the team on a one-year deal as he'll look to bounce back from a difficult season on and off the field. White's value on third down is significant and his dropoff was as much a reflection of the offense's as a whole.

Stevenson is a big back, who should help offset the loss of Burkhead to some extent. Considering the injury history at the position, it's not hard to see the rookie getting plenty of carries this season and he should provide a physical running presence that complements Harris and Michel's.

Brandon Bolden returns after opting out of 2020. The versatile veteran can do it all in the backfield while also being a valuable special teams contributor. J.J. Taylor made the 2020 team as an undrafted rookie and saw action in six games, highlighted by 11 carries for 43 yards against the Raiders as he helped provide a spark. He has a unique skillset and looked confident in spring practices. He could be groomed as a potential third-down back.

Jakob Johnson is also back as the fullback from Germany continues on his impressive journey from 91st player in 2019's training camp, to playing a valuable role leading the way for the Patriots' run game.

Tyler Gaffney was a late addition in OTAs after spending time in minor league baseball. Gaffney had spent time with the Patriots from 2014 until the 2017 offseason, mostly on the practice squad.

The running back group has a good mix of skill sets, as the only thing standing between them and one of the best rushing attacks in the league is likely health.

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