Patriots: Running backs continue to impress in second preseason game

For everyone like me who would rather watch a 38-35 game over a 24-21 game, we may be out of luck when watching the Patriots this season.

I’m okay with it too if this is what it’s going to look like for the next six months or so.

The Patriots offensive line and running backs were completely dominant on Thursday night in a 35-0 preseason win over Philadelphia. Now, in fairness, Philly didn’t play a majority of its elite talent, but NFL reps are NFL reps, especially with preseason games getting cut down to three. The Pats offense racked up 207 yards on the ground with 44 carries.

Rhamondre Stevenson continued to impress with a two-touchdown night. Sony Michel, Damien Harris and JJ Taylor all ran hard, as they have in virtually every single rep during the preseason. It’s becoming clearer by the day that this is going to be a run-first team with a LOT of play action whether it’s Mac or Cam under center. If Thursday night is any indication, it might be one of the best rushing attacks in the league.

“t’s a good group. Those guys all work hard,” coach Belichick said of his running backs. “They have all gotten opportunities and have shown positively in their opportunities. Competition brings out the best in all of us. Those guys are competing well and are all contributing. It’s a great situation.”

Stevenson was stripped from behind in the second half for his first fumble this preseason, but he continues to look like a slightly skinnier version of LeGarrette Blount, mowing guys over and churning out extra yards when it looks like he’s completely stopped. Meanwhile, Dion Lewis…I mean JJ Taylor, continues to impress every time he touches the ball whether it’s out of the backfield or on a punt return. Damien Harris may be the hardest runner the team has and although he din’t get much work on Thursday, he is the closest thing to a “sure bet” the Pats have on offense right now.

Perhaps the most surprising development in this loaded running back group has been the production from Sony Michel. Michel has been a valuable weapon in the pass game so far this preseason and has seems to be running more confidently when he isn’t having to handle a huge work load.

It’s only August, but it’s been a long time since we’ve seen a running back group with this much flexibility, this much diversity in skill sets and this much ability to change a game in several different ways. It’ll be extremely interesting to see who the odd man out is, right now it’s got to be Brandon Bolden, but time will tell.

Most importantly, this team may have several answers to their red zone problems from a year ago.

“It’s always good to put the ball in the end zone. We did a pretty good job of that tonight. The backs ran hard and we hit some passes,” Belichick added when asked about the red zone success. “Just, overall, the efficiency was a lot better than it was last week. We actually gained some yards throwing the ball and converted some third downs. That leads to some points.”