New England Patriots running back Mike Gillislee probably thought 2017 was going to be his breakout season as a featured running back.
With the Buffalo Bills, Gillislee averaged nearly 6 yards-per-carry as the No. 2 running back, behind LeSean McCoy. Last year Gillislee rushed for 577 yards and 8 touchdowns.
The Patriots signed Gillislee during the offseason, and it would be reasonable for him to think that he would pick up where LeGarrette Blount left off. Blount led the NFL in rushing touchdowns last year, and with him now on the Philadelphia Eagles, that’s a role Gillislee could assume.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
After rushing for 3 touchdowns in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs, Gillislee scored 1 more touchdown the rest of the season. He is averaging less than 4 yards-per-carry.
Gillislee has been inactive for five consecutive weeks, and he admitted that it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s been a coach’s decision. … It’s not easy, I can tell you that.” Gillislee said, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “But I’m a team player and always going to put my team first. I’m not going to be a distraction.”
It’s reasonable for Gillislee to be disappointed. He is experiencing team success like never before, but he’s not even getting to put on pads.
It is also reasonable for the Patriots use their other running backs who have been on the roster for longer. Dion Lewis was injured for much of last season, but has been healthy in 2017 and averaging more than 5 yards-per-carry.
James White has hauled in 54 receptions this season, and Rex Burkhead also has 7 combined rushing and receiving touchdowns. Burkhead and Lewis are also very capable pass catchers.
Gillislee has 31 receptions for his career, none with the Patriots.
However, Bill Belichick always has some tricks up his sleeve, so if Gillislee stays patient maybe there is a 120 yard game waiting for him in the playoffs.