The New England Patriots got several productive and cheap years from BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and they did what the Patriots usually do once non-core players reach free agency – let them walk and find an adequate replacement for much cheaper. Enter Brandon Bolden, a clone to Green-Ellis in every sense of the word. Both were undrafted free agents that dominated at Mississippi who thrive on getting tough yards between the tackles, but lack game-breaking speed or skills in the passing game so they went unnoticed on draft day. Coach Bill Belichick has a plan on how to build a team, and the selection of Bolden to replace Green-Ellis is a textbook example of how he will do that.
Bolden had some buzz after a strong second half against Buffalo in Week 4, but he is being forgotten about more as we enter Week 6 and issues are arising on other teams. Like any New England running back, there is volatility with this option. However, there is also reason to believe touches will continue. As Belichick has shown time and time again, he is constantly one step ahead of the rest of the league.
He was the first to continually be aggressive on fourth down and to focus on two tight end sets, and now he’s the first to take pieces from Chip Kelly’s fast break Oregon attack and implement them into his plan. The result? More plays, so there are more snaps to split up between players at all positions. Belichick had attempted to move to a pass-heavy attack in recent years, but, upon realizing it’s not a recipe for long-term success, he revamped his strategy this offseason. While he keeps the passing game as the focal point, the front seven on defense and the run game are getting a lot more attention early on in 2012.
Stevan Ridley has emerged as the lead back in New England, but inconsistencies, fumble issues and lack of familiarity with the no-huddle offense keep him from attaining a feature role. Danny Woodhead gets a lot of the no-huddle snaps, but the rest have been trending towards Bolden in lieu of former second-round pick Shane Vereen. Bolden earned that role in training camp, while Vereen spent his rookie year injured and did not impress in training camp this year. Bolden’s training wheels were kicked off before the Buffalo game, and, given what he’s put out there so far, there’s no reason his leash will tighten up anytime soon.
Week 6 in Seattle is not an ideal matchup to exploit Bolden, but there are several quality matchups on the horizon. Two of the league’s worst run defenses (Buffalo and the New York Jets) are in the same division, and while Miami’s run defense is stiff, expect the Patriots to be playing ahead in their matchups, meaning more opportunities for the run game. Those in need of bye week/injury fill-ins, by all means, fight for the scraps on other teams. But if you’re looking for an option that will help you throughout the rest of the season, Bolden is the play.