New England Patriots: Should Brandon Bolden Be the Team’s Starting Running Back?

Bolden's Versatility Out of the Backfield Could Give New England Offense Added Weapon

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | Despite experiencing injuries and poor execution to start the season, the New England Patriots have still managed to reel off a perfect 3-0 record.

As they look to build upon that success, one move they may want to consider is making Brandon Bolden their starting running back.

The running back position has been a virtual carousel so far this year for the Patriots.

Starter Stevan Ridley was temporarily benched in Week 1 because of fumbling problems. When he has played, he has been largely ineffective, accumulating just 121 yards on 36 carries (an anemic 3.4 yards-per-attempt average) and no touchdowns.

Former second-round pick Shane Vereen played like a star in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, rushing for 101 yards and catching seven passes for 58 yards. Unfortunately, he broke his wrist in the game and will be out until at least Week 11, according to NFL.com's Chris Wesseling.

LeGarrette Blount, who joined the Patriots as a free agent this offseason, has had his moments off the bench. The 250-pounder has rumbled for a combined 91 yards on 25 carries in the first three games, but most of his production has come between the tackles.

That brings us to Bolden.

The second-year back missed the first two games because of injury but made quite an impact in his 2013 debut in Week 3 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Although he had just three rushing attempts, he picked up 51 yards, including an impressive 46-yard sprint down the sidelines on one play. Additionally, he lined up on the outside as a receiver on some downs and finished with 49 receiving yards on five receptions.

Outside of Vereen's big game, Bolden's recent outing was the most dynamic performance of any New England running back so far this year. Accordingly, the team should give serious consideration to making him its starter -- at least for now.

Undrafted out of the University of Mississippi, Bolden made the most of his opportunities during his rookie season last year, rushing for 274 yards in 10 games. On a down note, the biggest news he made was the four-game suspension he earned for testing positive for PEDs in November.

In particular, Bolden's impressive showing in the passing game could make him quite a weapon if he was used on a more regular basis. Coming off the bench, he had just two receptions last season. However, the 76 career catches he had in college show his ability to be multidimensional.

Following the Tampa Bay game, Bolden expressed to The Boston Globe's Seth Lasko how good he felt taking on an expanded role, particularly in the receiving game. "I feel pretty confident, I kind of got faith in these hands," he said. "They might not catch everything, but I dust them off, you know, keep going, and try again."

One game of excellent production shouldn't be the only reason to consider Bolden for a starting role. It's also about the dynamic way he can make plays all over the field, and in ways not duplicated by other available backs on the roster.

The incumbent starter, Ridley rushed for 1,263 yards and 12 scores last year, but he has only 10 catches in 35 career games and just two since Week 2 of the 2012 season.

The bruising Blount has just one catch in his last 16 games, and is best used as a change-of-pace.

With the Patriots still breaking in a group of receivers who are largely young and inexperienced , giving quarterback Tom Brady another weapon on offense would help ease that transition. Bolden's versatility helps open up things, as defenders have more space to account for when he is on the field.

The usually high-flying New England offense has mustered a relatively modest 59 total points in its first three games. They have yet to show themselves to be the well-oiled machine so many have been accustomed to seeing during the Brady era. As the team continues to seek its rhythm, any and all avenues should be explored as possible strategies.

In his first game of the season, Bolden showed the positive impact he can have on the offense. Until he or another back proves otherwise, giving him the starting gig is worth taking a chance. He will grab the opportunity and run with it, or someone else will step up and take it from him. Either way, such a healthy competition could be just what the team needs.

In addition to the Yahoo Contributor Network, Andrew Martin has written extensively for Bleacher Report and a number of print publications and websites on the topics of history and sports (particularly the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots). He also produces his own blog and has appeared on various sports talk shows and podcasts.

You can also follow Andrew on Twitter: @HistorianAndrew.

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