Mark’s Remarks: Dissecting the Patriots backfield

Mark Lindahl, Sports editor

Stats from Sep. 7:

Rex Burkhead – 3 car/15 yards/0 td, 1 catch/8 yards

Mike Gillislee – 15 car/45 yards/3 td, 0 catch

Dion Lewis – 2 car/9 yards/0 td, 0 catch

James White – 10 car/38 yards/0 td, 3 catch/30 yards


Everyone knew coming into the 2017-2018 season that the Patriots backfield was going to be handled by committee, which was apparent in their first game of the season as they were upset by the Kansas City Chiefs 42-27 on Thursday night.

The bulk of the load was given to two backs in particular, Mike Gillislee on the ground, and James White as the change of pace back for the team with 15 plays a piece.

Gillislee ended with a stat line of 45 yards on 15 carries, which turns into a measly three yards per carry, but also finished with three touchdowns to lead the offense before they sputtered down the stretch.

Then came James White, who is more of a shifty running back who can make plays in space, leading the aerial attack out of the backfield with three catches for 30 yards, along with 38 yards on 10 carries. White finished the game with 3.8 yards per carry, which is equally as uninspiring as his counterpart on the ground.

While the three touchdowns made Gillislee a fantasy stud this week, if a team is able to stop the Patriots from getting in goal line situations then his value may plummet.

Most fantasy owners could have predicted that Gillislee and Lewis would see the bulk of the action, but with such underwhelming performances from both runners, aside from the three scores by Gillislee, coach Bill Belichick may be looking to shake things up next week in hopes of re-energizing his team.

Enter Rex Burkhead, former Cincinnati Bengals running back who was signed in the offseason.

Going back to his days as a Bengal, Burkhead has always produced when given his chances on the field. Averaging about five yards per carry throughout his career so far, he continued the efficient play ending with a stat line of 15 yards on three carries, which matches up with his five yards per carry average, along with one catch for eight yards.

With his consistent presence and versatility on the field, will we begin to see Burkhead getting more reps out of the backfield?

Or will Dion Lewis, with nine yards on two carries and no catches, be given his chance to shine as well?

The conundrum that is New England’s backfield may not produce a true RB1 that can rack up big points like LeGarrette Blount last year because of the amount of bodies and talent each possess, but with such a high powered offense with Brady driving the well-oiled machine, one of these running backs will end up becoming the main guy, and whoever guessed correctly in the draft will end up smiling just like Blount owners did last year.