Patriots

Patriots

Some would argue the New England Patriots lack elite offensive weapons.

Mike Tannenbaum would argue they actually have an embarrassment of riches -- at one position, anyway.

During an appearance Friday on WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria," the former New York Jets and Miami Dolphins general manager argued the Patriots may have the best position group in the NFL.

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"I think you can make a case that the New England Patriots running back room arguably is the best position room of any position of any team in the league," Tannenbaum said, via WEEI.com.

Notice Tannenbaum didn't say the Patriots have the best running back group in the NFL. He believes New England's running backs are the strong position group, period, in the NFL.

That's a hot take, Mike. Care to explain?

"They go five and six deep," Tannenbaum said. "I had Brandon Bolden with the Dolphins. We rarely get to talk about (Damien) Harris, who is a really good player out of Alabama. Then you think about (Rex) Burkhead, James White and obviously Sony Michel. It is a great group."

The Patriots indeed have great versatility and depth at running back: Michel is the early-down workhorse and White is the passing game threat, while Burkhead and Bolden can give you a bit of both. Harris, the team's third-round draft pick in 2019, couldn't even crack this deep rotation as a rookie.

Pundits seemed to agree with Tannenbaum before the 2019 season, too: SB Nation and Bleacher Report pegged the Patriots' RBs as the best and second-best running back group in the NFL, respectively.

 

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But that was prior to a 2019 campaign in which New England rushed for 1,703 yards as a team (18th in the NFL) while averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt (25th). The Patriots' leading rusher, Michel, averaged just 3.7 yards per carry, good for 40th among 47 qualified rushers.

Of course, the Patriots' offensive line contributed to their lack of success in the running game. And the team's backs were effective in the passing game, as White finished fourth among all RBs with 72 receptions.

Still, it's difficult to imagine New England's running back room as a better position group than, say, the Kansas City Chiefs' explosive wide receivers or even the Patriots' shutdown cornerback group.

If you buy Tannenbaum's argument, though, quarterback Jarrett Stidham has reason for optimism in 2020.