The New England Patriots could be searching for help at running back, and rightfully so.
The Patriots received bad news last weekend when they learned dynamic back Dion Lewis would need a second surgery to clean up his surgically repaired left knee and could miss 8-10 weeks. The team also released veteran Donald Brown, which means they might be looking for any sort of upgrade at the position.
Lewis is a major loss for the Patriots because of his unique ability as a dynamic pass-catching threat out of the backfield, similar to what his predecessor Shane Vereen provided. Replacing Lewis might be impossible, but New England will surely try.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss suggests the Patriots could be looking for help on the waiver wire, or perhaps via a trade. The primary factors left on New England’s depth chart are James White, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden and perhaps 2014 sixth-round pick Tyler Gaffney.
Blount’s role is about as clear cut as it gets: A power runner who is primarily used when the Patriots are winning and on the goal line. White stepped up in Lewis’ absence last season, catching 40 passes for 410 yards and four touchdowns. A report from CSN New England’s Phil Perry suggests White has taken a more active role as an actual running back, but the Patriots have shown in the past they’re rarely tied down to a specific tailback.
There aren’t a ton of options out there on the waiver wire. Veterans Fred Jackson and Roy Helu are available, but might not bring much to the table. Former Bills running back Karlos Williams is now on the market, but he’s essentially a younger version of Blount.
The Tennessee Titans can afford to ship away a running back. They signed DeMarco Murray and drafted Derrick Henry, making third-year pro Bishop Sankey expendable. But again, it’s tough to say whether Sankey would be an upgrade for the Patriots.
The Patriots have made it work with far worse options at running back. But, the absence of Lewis for at least the first two months of the season could drastically affect how the offense operates.