Patriots get a well-rounded performance from their backs without Gillislee

Patriots get a well-rounded performance from their backs without Gillislee

DENVER -- The Patriots might've proved just how deep they are at running back by the caliber of player they were willing to bench on Sunday night against the Broncos. 

Denver's defense came into Sunday night ranked second in total defense and fifth against the run, yet the Patriots sat their leading rusher and still put up big offensive numbers in their 41-16 win. 

Mike Gillislee was a healthy scratch against the Broncos on Sunday night, giving the Patriots four active backs: Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden. They combined for 99 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, and they caught six passes for 38 yards and two touchdowns. 


Gillislee averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in New England's two games leading up to the matchup in Denver. And while he gives the Patriots a different kind of runner as the team's "big back," the Patriots were OK going without him against a stout run defense. 

Lewis (21 snaps) started the game and ran with good power -- particularly on his eight-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, during which he carried Aqib Talib about four yards into the end zone. 

Burkhead (36 snaps) came in after Lewis opened the game, catching two passes on his first two snaps, including a 14-yard touchdown. Burkhead ended up leading the position group in playing time, and for the third consecutive game since coming back from a rib injury, he saw his workload increase. 

White (11 snaps) saw five touches, the last of which was an eight-yard touchdown on an option route that completely shook linebacker Will Parks. 

The Patriots invested in the running back position this offseason when they signed both Burkhead and Gillislee. Now they have more backs than they know what to do with. 

Bolden is active on a weekly basis for what he gives the team in the kicking game, but he's no longer the only back who contributes on special teams. Burkhead made two tackles as a member of the kickoff team, and he blocked a punt that helped set up a field goal. Lewis, meanwhile, returned a kick 103 yards for a score. 

It's a dynamic group that can run, catch and chip in on "teams," and they put on display their varied skill sets Sunday night. 

Though Lewis has seemingly taken on any role that Gillislee (who isn't used as a receiver and doesn't play special teams) might handle, the Patriots may opt to bring Gillislee back into the fold when they see a matchup that might favor a bigger back. And if they do, the league will see they have yet another wrinkle to their running game. 

As it is, it's already a headache, as Sunday night's performance showed. 


What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

What are the Patriots getting in Cordarrelle Patterson?

The Patriots have made a trade with the Raiders to acquire receiver and special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson, according to a source. The deal, first reported by Pardon My Take, is an interesting one because it lands Patterson with the team that passed on the opportunity to draft him back in 2013. 


Bill Belichick dealt the No. 29 overall pick to the Vikings that year in exchange for four selections, including a second-rounder and a third-rounder. The second-rounder became Jamie Collins, and the third became Logan Ryan. The Patriots also took Josh Boyce with a fourth they received in the trade, and the fourth pick (a seventh) was traded to Tampa Bay in exchange for LeGarrette Blount. The Vikings took Patterson. 

Patterson's career to this point has been a mixed bag. One of the top athletes in the 2013 draft, the Tennessee product never quite panned out as a go-to No. 1 receiver. He has not missed a game in five seasons, but he has never cracked 600 offensive snaps in a single season. The 6-foot-2, 220-pounder has turned himself into more of a gadget receiver as well as one of the game's best special teamers. 

Here's what the Patriots are getting in Patterson . . . 

TOP-TIER SPECIAL TEAMER: Patterson has solidified himself as one of the NFL's best kick-returners. In five seasons, he's ranked as the top returner in terms of average yards per return three times. He's never been outside of the top 10 in the league in that category. Last year he was sixth in the NFL with a 28.3 yards per return average. Patterson has also become a highly-effective gunner on punt units, a role he thrived in once he embraced it, and he has kick coverage experience. Patterson has not been a punt-returner. He has just one punt return under his belt compared to 153 kick returns. Patterson has been named a First-Team All-Pro twice for his work in the kicking game. 

INCONSISTENT RECEIVER: Patterson has never been able to take his explosiveness and translate that into consistent production offensively. He's not thought of as a precise route-runner, and he has a reputation as a "body-catcher." Yet, because he's so dynamic with the ball in his hands, offenses in Oakland and Minnesota have found ways to get the ball in his hands. He'll align in the backfield, take reverses and catch screens just to try to get him the ball in space where he can let his natural abilities take over. If he gets a crease, he can create a chunk play in a blink. 

THE COST: Patterson is in the second year of a two-year deal he signed with the Raiders last offseason. He has a base salary of $3 million and a cap hit of $3.25 million. The Patriots will be sending a fifth-rounder to the Raiders and getting a sixth-rounder back. (As an aside . . . The Patriots have used one fifth-round pick in the last six drafts. It was spent on long-snapper Joe Cardona. Why are they constantly dealing fifths away? Inside the Pylon's Dave Archibald did an interesting piece on that topic about a year and a half ago. The gist is that a) there's a significant drop-off in your chances of finding a star in the fifth compared to the fourth, and b) the talent in the fifth round, by some metrics, hasn't proven to be all that different from the sixth or seventh rounds.) 

THE FIT: Patterson is a relatively low-risk acquisition because of his cap hit (which on the Patriots slots him in between Shea McClellin and Chris Hogan) and because of the draft capital required to nab him. Trading for a player like Patterson as opposed to signing another team's free agent has the added benefit of not impacting the compensatory-pick formula. Patterson also fills a few needs. His abilities as a kick-returner will be more than suitable with last year's primary kick returner for the Patriots, Dion Lewis, out of the mix. What Patterson can do as a gunner and in kick coverage will also be useful with Johnson Bademosi now elsewhere. There's also a chance Matthew Slater plays in a different city in 2017, in which case Patterson's contributions as a gunner and in kick coverage could be critical. With Brandin Cooks, Julian Edelman and Hogan all established in the Patriots offense, Patterson won't be expected to take on a heavy role in the Patriots offense. However, if he can pick up a new system, perhaps he could take on a role as a No. 4 or 5 wideout who benefits from plays designed to get him touches in space. Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Kenny Britt -- now alongside Patterson -- will all be competing for time in New England's offense. Former Patriots coaching assistant Mike Lombardi seems to believe it's unlikely Patterson contributes offensively


Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

Patriots acquire WR Cordarrelle Patterson in trade with Raiders

The Patriots have acquired wide receiver and kick returner Cordarrelle Patterson in a trade with the Raiders, NBC Sports Boston's Phil Perry confirms.

Pardon My Take, a podcast by Barstool Sports, first reported the news.

Ian Rapaport of NFL Network reports the Patriots sent a fifth-round pick to Oakland and received a Raiders' sixth-rounder along with Patterson.

More to come...