Hannable: Patriots have issue at running back, and that was even before Rex Burkhead’s concussion

Ryan Hannable
September 12, 2018 - 10:33 pm

Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports

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FOXBORO — Granted it’s only Week 2, but the Patriots have issues at the running back position, and no we’re not just talking about this Sunday against Jacksonville.

This may be something that lingers for the entire season unless something is done.

As of now, the team has James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and Kenjon Barner on the active roster, and Ralph Webb and Kenneth Farrow on the practice squad. But, Burkhead has a concussion likely suffered in Week 1 and Michel hasn’t played in a game at all — preseason or regular season — as he’s been dealing with a knee injury suffered Aug 1. 

Not the most ideal situation, especially following releasing Mike Gillislee and Brandon Bolden on cut-down weekend, and then seeing them sign elsewhere. Things got even worse when Jeremy Hill tore his ACL against the Texans. (It’s scary to think the team could really use Bolden right now.)

New England almost certainly is going to need to promote someone from the practice squad, with Farrow being the most likely option for Sunday, but what if both Michel and Burkhead are unable to go? Fullback James Develin may be in line for a few carries. 

The team is capable of navigating through one game with a lack of depth like this, but the problem is it’s just Week 2 and the position is very injury-prone. More injuries are likely to occur with players like Burkhead and Michel.

Someone else needs to be brought in, and more specifically someone of the bigger variety. Look at all the backs currently with the team: White (5-foot-10, 205 pounds), Burkhead (5-foot-10, 215 pounds), Michel (5-foot-11, 215 pounds), Barner (5-foot-9, 195 pounds), Webb (5-foot-10, 200 pounds) and Farrow (5-foot-9, 219 pounds). 

They are all very similar, as they aren’t very big. The Patriots to add a bigger back who can consistently run in-between the tackles and be productive in short-yardage. This was supposed to be Hill (6-foot-1, 230 pounds), but he of course is done for the year.

Burkhead may be the best current option, but he's the most injury-prone guy of the bunch. As for Sunday, Farrow seems the most likely to be promoted, but it’s not a sustainable situation for 14 more games plus the postseason. Farrow has played in 13 NFL games and has 60 carries for 192 yards to his name.

Yes, the Patriots don’t rely on the running game as much as most teams in the league, but they still need it. They need a reliable back to pick up the third-and-short plays, as it’s asking a lot for a 41-year-old Tom Brady to be responsible for those plays as well.

So, who is currently available? It’s not a great list, but there are a few players the Patriots could be considering. 

Eddie Lacy is a big back, but he’s battled weight and injury issues in recent years. Last year with the Seahawks he averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. Terrance West, 5-foot-10, 225 pounds, was released by the Saints in August, but like the other Patriots, he’s battled injuries as well. Former Seahawk Thomas Rawls could also be considered following being released by the Jets.

Another possibility is a trade, which the Patriots haven’t been afraid to make over the years. There could be a running back who isn’t in a good situation and a trade could be on the table. It may be in the Patriots’ best interest to poke around and see who might become available.

It just seems given the current depth at the position, something needs to be done because the current situation does not seem capable of lasting until January and February.

Related: Will Sony Michel play vs. Jaguars?

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