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Countdown to camp: Running backs 07.26.15 at 5:44 pm ET
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LeGarrette Blount heads into 2015 as the Patriots lead back. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount heads into 2015 as the Patriots lead back. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

As training camp approaches, we’ll offer a position-by-position breakdown of the 2015 Patriots. We started with the wide receivers and moved on to the tight ends, offensive line and quarterback. Now it’s the running backs:

Depth chart (regular-season stats via Pro Football Reference): LeGarrette Blount (125 carries, 547 yards, 4.4 yards per carry, 5 TDs with both Pittsburgh and New England), Brandon Bolden (28 carries, 89 yards, 3.2 yards per carry, 1 TD), Travaris Cadet (10 carries, 32 yards, 3.2 yards per carry; 38 catches, 296 yards, 1 TD with New Orleans), Tyler Gaffney (no stats in 2014), Jonas Gray (89 carries, 412 yards, 4.6 yards per carry, 5 TDs), Dion Lewis (no stats in 2014), James White (9 carries, 38 yards, 4.2 yards per carry), James Develin (fullback — 3 carries, 5 yards, 1.7 yards per carry).

THREE THINGS WE KNOW

1. When it comes to the Patriots backfield, plug and play is still the rule. Despite the fact that they accounted for a sizable portion of the running game last year, New England let Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley walk in free agency. (The two combined for 42 percent of the rushing yards and 43 percent of the carries from 2014.) The idea of fungible running backs is nothing new around New England; over the last 10 seasons, six different backs (Gray, Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Corey Dillon) have led the Patriots in rushing yards — in that span, only the Cardinals, Browns and Saints have had more different backs lead their team in rushing than New England. The return of Blount (despite the fact that he’ll now miss the opener) would seem to guarantee that it will be seven in 11 seasons. However, if seniority in the system is any indication, it’s worth noting that after the departure of Vereen and Ridley, the senior member of the New England backfield — in terms of time in the system — is 25-year-old Brandon Bolden, who has played a grand total of 38 regular-season games with the Patriots. We’ve mentioned this before, but the only thing that’s constant about the state of the New England running game is change.

2. The Patriots will rotate their backs. In 2014, the Patriots became the first Super Bowl winner since the 1987 Redskins to have four different running backs finish with 40 carries or more in their championship season. (That was because of a combination of injury, scheme and personnel.) Things won’t be that dramatic in 2015, but history certainly suggests that New England will again go with what will best be described as a running back-by-committee. While Blount is going to be the closest thing the team has to a lead back, expect Jonas Gray to also get some reps when it comes to working between the tackles, in addition to special teams ace Brandon Bolden. Meanwhile, Cadet and White will get run as candidates to fill the third down job. Meanwhile, Gaffney and Lewis remain wild cards when it comes to predicting their potential production in 2015.

3. For a fullback, James Develin will get plenty of reps. While he will never pile up the gaudy numbers, the former Ivy Leaguer has carved out a nice niche for himself as a member of the New England offense, as the Patriots have become one of the few teams around the league that has relied on a fullback as a key piece of the puzzle. According to Pro Football Focus, Develin was fifth in the league among fullbacks in total snaps with 259, and he graded out as one of the best in the league when it came to both pass and run blocking.
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Read More: Brandon Bolden, Countdown to Camp, James White, Jonas Gray
Stevan Ridley: Patriots ‘made a mistake’ when it came to Deflategate 06.11.15 at 2:45 pm ET
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Former Patriot Stevan Ridley said Thursday that his old team “made a mistake” when it came to Deflategate.

Speaking with the media shortly after the end of the Jets offseason program, the running back — who left New England as a free agent in the offseason after four years with the Patriots to sign with the Jets — was asked about the ongoing scandal.

“They made a mistake,” Ridley told reporters who asked about the Patriots. “The best thing that can happen is that they deal with that on their own. That has nothing to do with the New York Jets, and this is where I am now. At the end of the day, the Super Bowl champs are the Super Bowl champs. The football is deflated or not, it took a lot of hard work to get there. I’m not saying they’re right; I’m not saying they’re wrong. But what I am saying is you can’t take away that they got that title.”

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Read More: Deflategate, Stevan Ridley,
Resetting Patriots depth chart: Running back 04.14.15 at 8:05 am ET
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Jonas Gray could have a bigger workload in 2015. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Jonas Gray could have a bigger workload in 2015. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

With the majority of free agency completed and the draft looming, we’re going to take a look at the Patriots depth chart by position, and try and assess the level of need going forward. We started with special teams, tight end and wide receiver. Now, it’s running back:

Current depth chart: LeGarrette Blount (60 carries, 281 yards, 3 TDs), Jonas Gray (89 carries, 412 yards, 5 TDs), Brandon Bolden (28 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD), Travaris Cadet, James White (9 carries, 38 yards), Dion Lewis, James Develin (3 carries, 5 yards), Tyler Gaffney (ended season on injured reserve).

Lost in free agency: Stevan Ridley (94 carries, 340 yards, 2 TDs) signed with the Jets, Shane Vereen (96 carries, 391 rushing yards, 2 TDs; 52 catches, 447 receiving yards, 3 TDs) signed with the Giants.

Gained in free agency: Cadet (10 carries, 32 yards; 31 catches, 51 targets, 296 yards, 1 TD for the Saints last year), Lewis (no stats last year with the Browns, but his best season came in 2011 with the Eagles when he had 23 carries for 102 yards and a touchdown).

Other changes: There’s been plenty of turnover at the position this offseason for New England, as the Patriots have lost 43 percent of their carries from 2014 with the departures of Ridley and Vereen. But that’s pretty much par for the course when it comes to the Patriots and the running back position: over the last 10 years, six different backs have led New England in rushing yards. (In that span, only the Cardinals, Browns and Saints have had more different backs lead their team in rushing than the Patriots.) One other note as it relates to change in the New England backfield: Tyler Gaffney was swiped off waivers from the Panthers last summer and stashed on injured reserve because of a knee injury. The former Stanford product bears watching for a few reasons throughout the spring workouts for a few reasons, including the fact that the 6-foot-1, 221-pounder rushed for 1,709 yards on 330 carries as a senior in college in 2013. (He also had 27 catches out of the backfield in his final two years at Stanford.) Given those numbers, it’s reasonable to think that he’ll at least be a part of the conversation when it comes to the position this summer.

Is this an area of need going into the draft? Not on the surface, but there is some pre-draft talk that if one of the two backs considered to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field (Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley) are available at No. 32, the Patriots would be inclined to go after them at the end of the first round. It certainly would be out of character for New England, as Bill Belichick has taken a running back just once in the first round (Laurence Maroney, 2006). If they don’t go for a back at the end of the first round, look for them to pick up at least one somewhere along the way, even as a camp body or two via the undrafted/rookie free agent route to help fill out the roster.

Read More: Bill Belichick, Dion Lewis, James White, Jonas Gray
Stevan Ridley posts video of him getting Jets tattoo 04.10.15 at 3:52 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley is wasting no time getting used to being a member of the New York Jets. The running back posted a video on social media Friday of him getting a Jets tattoo.

Ridley reportedly signed a one-year deal with the Jets earlier this week.

@ceauxartwork – #longliveKiDRiD

Posted by Stevan Ridley on Friday, April 10, 2015

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Next back up: Departure of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen this offseason underscores Patriots approach at running back 04.09.15 at 12:04 am ET
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LeGarrette Blount could be the seventh different back in 11 seasons to lead the Patriots in rushing yardage in 2015. (Getty Images)

LeGarrette Blount could be the seventh different back in 11 seasons to lead the Patriots in rushing yardage in 2015. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

While not wholly unexpected, the Patriots’ decision Wednesday to let Stevan Ridley walk to a divisional rival in free agency is the sort of personnel move that simply underscores the franchise philosophy when it comes to running backs: plug-and-play.

Regardless of Ridley’s injury history, the idea that the Patriots let a 26-year-old running back with a 1,200-yard season on his resume walk out the door without hesitation underscores the fact that, simply put, no team is more comfortable with change in the backfield than the New England. In all, with Shane Vereen (96 carries) and Ridley (94 carries) both departing this offseason as free agents, the Patriots will lose 43 percent of their carries from the 2014 regular season. In this day and age, those are the sort of numbers that would cripple most offenses. For New England? It’s business as usual.

Some of New England’s attitude can be traced back to the fact that when you have a two-time MVP under center, you can afford to cycle through skill position players, especially in an era where running backs have been devalued. The Patriots have also been excellent at identifying relatively under-the-radar types like Jonas Gray and Danny Woodhead and finding specific areas where they could excel while in New England.

But still, when stacked against the rest of the league, the turnover at the position really stands out. Over the last 10 seasons, six different backs (Gray, Ridley, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Corey Dillon) have led the Patriots in rushing yards — in that span, only the Cardinals, Browns and Saints have had more different backs lead their team in rushing than the Patriots.

Of course, it’s not just the idea of change. New England is different than most when it comes to the running back position. In 2014, for example, the Patriots became the first Super Bowl champion since the 1987 Redskins to finish the regular season with 40 backs with 40 or more carries. According to Elias, New England became the first team to reach the Super Bowl without having a player with 100 rush attempts that season. And in his 20 years as a head coach, Bill Belichick has never had a running back go for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. (The closest? Antowain Smith, who rushed for 2,781 yards in his three seasons with the Patriots, including 1,157 in 2001 and 982 in 2002.)

Currently, the senior member of the New England backfield — in terms of time in the system — is 25-year-old Brandon Bolden, who has played a grand total of 38 regular-season games with the Patriots. LeGarrette Blount (21 games with New England), Gray (8) and James White (3) round out the current backs on the roster who have accrued any sort of playing time while in New England.

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Brandon Bolden, Dion Lewis, Ivan Fears
Report: Stevan Ridley signs with Jets 04.08.15 at 7:41 pm ET
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Stevan Ridley will try to rebound from a serious knee injury after signing with the Jets. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Stevan Ridley will try to rebound from a serious knee injury after signing with the Jets. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Another former Patriot is headed to the Jets.

In a move not as earthshaking as Darrelle Revis, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report Wednesday night that free agent running back Stevan Ridley is signing with the Patriots’ AFC East division rival. Multiple reports indicate it’s a one-year deal with the Jets. Ridley is no guarantee to be the Jets’ feature back as he is coming off ACL and MCL tears in Buffalo in October. He only ran for 340 yards and two touchdowns in 2014.

Ridley made a big impact in his rookie season out of LSU in 2011, when he averaged 5.1 yards on 87 carries, playing in all 16 games. He fumbled in the season finale and again in a playoff win over the Broncos and was benched for the AFC championship and Super Bowl.

Ridley’s breakout season came in 2012, when he ran for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Ball security was again a problems as he fumbled four times and once in the AFC championship loss to the Ravens, in which he was knocked out with a concussion.

Ridley’s yards per carry fell to 4.3 yards in 2013 before bottoming out to 3.6 yards per carry this past season.

Ridley will battle Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell for playing time. According to Rapoport, Ridley had offers from the Redskins and Dolphins, among others. Rapoport says Ridley chose the Jets because he is joining an offense under new coordinator Chan Gailey.

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Read More: 2015 NFL free agency, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Stevan Ridley
Report: Stevan Ridley visiting with Redskins Tuesday 04.07.15 at 7:05 am ET
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Stevan Ridley continues to explore his options for his next team.

After visiting with the Jets and Dolphins last week, the free agent running back is visiting with the Redskins on Tuesday, according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss. A report last week said it’s “likely” he will not return to the Patriots.

Ridley suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Bills in Week 6 last season. He’s been spotted working out at LSU, where he went to school, and appears to be ready for the 2015 season.

In four seasons in the league, all with the Patriots, Ridley has ran for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

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