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Silver lining from finale: Patriots know what they have in RB Steven Jackson

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Not much went according to plan in the New England Patriots' 20-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins in the regular-season finale on Sunday, but one thing has become clear over the past two days: A silver lining for the coaching staff was getting an extended look at veteran running back Steven Jackson.

Bill Belichick is encouraged with what he sees.

"I thought he ran hard in those tough-yardage situations there, short yardage and down around the goal line [and] he made a good catch-and-run on the screen [for 20 yards]," he said Tuesday. "Good things to build on."

Jackson, 32, hadn't played football for almost a full year when he signed a one-year contract with the Patriots on Dec. 22.

After his first week of practice, the Patriots played him nine snaps on Dec. 27 against the Jets and he finished with seven carries for 15 yards. Then with another full week of practice, the workload was upped to 24 snaps against the Dolphins, which led all running backs and was part of the reason the team favored a conservative approach early.

That's a good indication of how the Patriots will likely proceed in the playoffs -- Jackson as the lead power back, with James White as the top "sub back" and Brandon Bolden adding depth while returning to his core special-teams duties.

With Jackson, Belichick thinks there is potential for him to contribute as a pass-catcher as well.

"Steven’s had a lot of production in the passing game over the course of his career. He’s got good hands, soft hands for a big man, so we’ll see how all that plays out, but I think he can help us on all three downs," he said. "How much that is and how long that is, that’s part of something we’re working through as well."