[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here can be no denying the success Bill Belichick has had as the head coach of the New England Patriots. He may have three Super Bowl rings, but for fantasy owners he’s a very hard guy to read. Who will be the top RB each week? What’s the true nature of a player’s injury? Will the media be able to get him to let on to anything? All these questions surround Belichick each week and few are answered.
One big question around the Patriots each week has had to do with their many running backs. Let’s take a look at what each has done through six weeks…
Stevan Ridley earned an early season trip to Belichick’s doghouse when he started having fumble issues. He failed to score, or go over 60 yards rushing in the first four weeks of the season, despite averaging over 10 touches per game. Ridley was held out in week 5 with a knee injury, which some questioned as Belichick tactics. When Ridley came back in week 6, he went for 96 yards on 20 carries and two scores. For now, he’s out of the doghouse and the starter.
LeGarrette Blount had a big 47-yard touchdown run vs. the Falcons and that’s been about it. He had a chance to take the top spot from Ridley, but one run will not win a starting job in the NFL. Expect Blount to fade into the background, unless something happens to Ridley.
Shane Vereen only played in week 1, but racked up 101 rushing yards on 14 carries and had 7 receptions for 58 yards on 10 targets. Until matched in week 6 by Ridley, Vereen’s 21 touches as a team season-high. Shane Vereen’s wrist injury put him on IR (designated to return). He will be eligible to return in week 11 at Carolina, following New England’s week 10 bye. When Vereen returns, expect some extra Belichick headaches as you jockey for playoff position in your leagues.
Brandon Bolden got his first action in week and had 3 carries and 5 receptions for a total of 100 yards. Fantasy owners everywhere likely realized that Bolden was available in their leagues and rushed to put in claims for the players that would obviously be the new Vereen. It has not panned out that way. Since that game, Bolden has only neared that output in week 5. He’s still the “change of pace” and third down RB, but likely not a wise start in most leagues. He does have a little more value in PPR formats.
With this many questions at RB, Belichick is causing many fantasy owners to relive bad memories of Mike Shanahan (pre-Alfred Morris). It looks like Ridley has the job back, but Vereen could stir things up while Blount and Bolden linger.
The Patriots also release very little information related to injuries. In addition to that lack of info, they place a lot of “Questionable” statuses on players, that at times are suspected to not even be injured. It’s not rare at all for the Pats to have about a dozen players marked with that big red Q all fantasy owners have come to despise.
The biggest injury annoyance related to Patriots this season has been Rob Gronkowski. Some expected him to just miss week 1, or maybe a couple of weeks. That number has since snowballed and brought about a cross-sport reference to the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose. Gronk was expected to be back in week 6, but remained sidelined. He should be worth the wait, but fantasy owners are getting inpatient with Gronk and Belichick’s lack of answers, other than “he was inactive.”
Adding to Belichick’s lack of popularity… he’s is the only active coach that’s not a member of the NFL Coaches Association. This is why in NFL Madden games he’s listed as NE Coach without a photo. He was also figuratively killed off in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin, a long-time fan of the Giants and Jets.
“…Belicho, a famous Volantene patriot whose unbroken succession of conquests and triumphs ended rather abruptly when he was eaten by giants.” – A Dance With Dragons