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Patriots positional review: RB

1/27/2014

Continuing our positional review/offseason preview, here’s a look at the Patriots running backs:

Stevan Ridley

Age: 24

2013 status: Led backs in snaps (28 percent), started 6 games.

2013 highlights: Ran for 773 yards and scored seven touchdowns, though his season will be in many ways remembered for a string of three straight games with a fumble that led to being inactive for a game. Ridley has the most pure running talent on the team, but he must overcome ball-security issues.

Current contract runs through: 2014 season

Shane Vereen

Age: 24

2013 status: Second among backs in snaps (24.3 percent), started 1 of 8 games active

2013 highlights: Missed 8 games because of a Week 1 wrist injury, but became a pass-catching force in his return. Had 47 catches during the regular season, establishing himself as a top pass-catching back in the role previously held by Danny Woodhead. Had some critical drops, but realized potential in third pro season.

Current contract runs through: 2014 season

LeGarrette Blount

Age: 27

2013 status: Third among backs in snaps (23.3 percent), started 7 games

2013 highlights: Came on like a freight train late in the season, surpassing 300 total yards during the regular-season finale. A bruiser who bounced back after a disappointing 2012 season in Tampa Bay. Not always electric, but flashed big play explosiveness down the stretch. Had 8 rushing scores in last four games (playoffs included).

Current contract runs through: Free agent

Brandon Bolden

Age: 23

2013 status: Fourth among backs in snaps (23.2 percent), started 2 of 12 games played

2013 highlights: Was a part of the running back rotation during the middle of the season, playing a critical role in the Week 12 win against Denver. Made more pronounced impact on special teams as a core coverage player.

Current contract runs through: 2014

James Develin

Age: 25

2013 status: Played 25.8 percent of offensive snaps, starting 6 of 16 games at fullback

2013 highlights: A hammerhead who brought unique toughness to the offense this season and was roundly respected by his teammates. Made his contributions primarily as a lead blocker in two-back sets, though he also chipped in with a rushing touchdown against Houston.

Current contract runs through: 2014

Others on the roster: Jonas Gray, Sam McGuffie (RB/WR)

Positional need: New England’s approach at running back has often been by committee, and 2013 was no different. Vereen cemented himself as the go-to option when the team pressed the up-tempo button, while Ridley and Blount were more of the bellcow types. While Blount’s performance late in the season makes him a player of interest to bring back, NFL teams are becoming judicious in paying big bucks to backs because of their "replace-ability." That being said, bringing Blount back would solidify the depth at the position, with three quality starter types and Bolden as insurance.