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Patriots alter RB rotation to feature Steven Jackson in power role

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla -- The New England Patriots altered their running back rotation in Sunday's 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins, turning to veteran Steven Jackson as their top power option.

Jackson played 24 offensive snaps and finished with 14 carries for 35 yards (2.5 yards per carry) with one touchdown. The scoring run, a two-yarder in the third quarter, showed that Jackson can be a hammer close to the goal line.

“Once we get in those situations where we have to grind out yardage, that’s where I have to make sure I pull my weight on the team,” Jackson said. “Inside zone, I bounced the play outside and had a [defensive back] there, so I just had to lower my pads to get in the end zone.”

Jackson played nine snaps in his Patriots debut on Dec. 27 against the New York Jets, so the 24-snap workload was another step to help him transition into football shape.

His workload provides the springboard for this week’s snap-count analysis:

Total offensive plays: 60

Total defensive plays: 75

RUNNING BACK

Steven Jackson -- 24

James White -- 23

Brandon Bolden -- 17

NOTES: With Bolden’s workload reduced from the past two weeks, he returned to playing a core role on special teams, which he hadn’t done. This is likely the way it will continue for the Patriots into the playoffs. ... Looking back at the game plan, attempting to get the running backs more involved in the passing game might have helped. White’s 68-yard catch and run to set up the team’s lone touchdown was the best play of the day for the offense.

OFFENSIVE LINE

RT Marcus Cannon -- 60

LT Cameron Fleming -- 60

RG Tre’ Jackson -- 50

C Bryan Stork -- 49

G Josh Kline -- 43

G Shaq Mason -- 28

C David Andrews -- 11

NOTES: This unit is struggling, and the return of veteran Sebastian Vollmer (left ankle, did not play) should help in the playoffs. ... Mason was replaced late in the game Dec. 27 against the Jets, and that carried over into this game as he didn’t start. ... One combination that could be worth considering is returning Andrews to center and moving Stork to left guard.

WIDE RECEIVER

Brandon LaFell -- 57

Keshawn Martin -- 56

Danny Amendola -- 23

Chris Harper -- 3

Matthew Slater -- 2

NOTES: Amendola played in just one two-WR package as he was used mostly as the pure No. 3 option. It wasn’t a big passing game, but for the number of snaps played, the production (LaFell two catches, Martin one catch) highlighted how much the Patriots miss Julian Edelman.

QUARTERBACK

Tom Brady -- 56

Jimmy Garoppolo -- 4

NOTES: Brady acknowledged he was “pretty sore” with a right ankle injury sustained in the second quarter, but felt he would be OK. Still, Brady was replaced by Garoppolo with 1:56 remaining in regulation as Brady had taken too many hits.

TIGHT END

Rob Gronkowski -- 55

Michael Williams -- 25

Scott Chandler -- 14

NOTES: Gronkowski had a full workload, an indication of how the Patriots were playing to win. If they were really managing injured personnel with the big picture in mind, that wouldn’t have been the case. ... Chandler, who has been on the injury report with a knee issue, has played one, zero, four and 14 snaps in the past four games and hasn’t been a big factor.

CORNERBACK

Malcolm Butler -- 75

Logan Ryan -- 75

Leonard Johnson -- 47

NOTES: This was a heavy three-corner nickel game, as evidenced by the high snap total for Johnson. ... Butler and Ryan have been two of the Patriots’ most consistent and durable defenders, as they led the team in defensive snaps played this year. Butler was in for 98.8 percent of them, Ryan for 89.3 percent.

LINEBACKER

Jamie Collins -- 75

Jerod Mayo -- 69

Darius Fleming -- 6

Dekoda Watson -- 1

NOTES: Watching the game live, it seemed like the tackling from this group was inconsistent, with some breakdowns in fundamentals. Fleming was the No. 3 linebacker in the seldom-used base package, but with Dont’a Hightower expected back for the playoffs, it will be Collins and Hightower as the top tandem, with Mayo as the No. 3.

SAFETY

Devin McCourty -- 74

Patrick Chung -- 71

Jordan Richards -- 13

Duron Harmon -- 12

NOTES: McCourty (ankle) and Chung (hip/foot) didn’t look like themselves as they gutted it out through injuries. ... Tavon Wilson didn’t play on defense or special teams after being involved in the long Jets catch and run in overtime Dec. 27 that set up the game-winning touchdown.

DEFENSIVE END

Jabaal Sheard -- 71

Rob Ninkovich -- 63

Geneo Grissom -- 22

NOTES: Sheard’s 71 snaps were a season high (his previous high was 52 against the Broncos), which came as a result of Chandler Jones (abdomen/toe) being inactive. ... That also thrust Grissom, the third-round pick from Oklahoma, into the defensive rotation and he showed up with a sack aided by a nice interior rush from Akiem Hicks.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Malcom Brown -- 54

Akiem Hicks -- 49

Alan Branch -- 47

Ishmaa’ily Kitchen -- 1

NOTES: Brown, Hicks and Branch all played a season-high total as the team’s depth was thinned without Sealver Siliga, who wasn’t with the team because of a family emergency. Brown’s previous high was 43, Hicks’ previous high was 33, and Branch’s previous high was 36.