Back on July 20th, ESPN's Mike Reiss said that "it isn't a given that LeGarrette Blount makes the 53 man roster". Looking at the team Patriots off-season moves at the running back position and the current depth chart, it may seem crazy to even ponder that thought. But when delving deeper, it actually makes sense that Blount may be facing some pressure for his roster spot. The team re-signed him back in April after Blount did not receive any interest in free agency. But New England only signed him to a one-year, one million dollar deal, a near risk-free contract that seems fitting for a player coming off a major hip injury.
Blount missed all of organized team activities (OTAs) and mini-camp, but was able to avoid starting out on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for training camp. He did not require surgery and has been on the field since training camp started and has reportedly even looked "trimmed down" as well. As of right now, it would seem that Blount would be the favorite for the Patriots "big back" role as a two-down running back. That isn't to say he isn't facing competition, but he has not necessarily "won" the position yet either. Running backs coach Ivan Fears recently said of Blount: "I want to see the LeGarrette I know that can be a dominant player when he’s playing up to his stuff. He’s been hurt. He’s been away from us. There’s a lot of opportunity there for him. Let’s see what he can do."
So while the spot that had been occupied by Blount in years past is still wide open, it doesn't sound like Blount has won the job outright. At least, not right now. He will indeed face competition, even if the team did not do much to try and fill up the depth chart at running back. Dion Lewis is expected to have a big third down role along with a solid amount of carries in the run game, but the role mentioned above is still up for grabs. Players like Joey Iosefa and Tyler Gaffney have both been healthy and making the most of their time in training camp thus far. Blount currently stands at 6'0", 250 lbs. Iosefa at 6'0", 245 lbs and Gaffney at 6'0", 225 lbs. So in terms of size, Iosefa and Gaffney are both the same height as Blount and Iosefa is right around 250 lbs as well.
So it is not as if there is no-one else on the team that has the same size/shape/build, but both Gaffney and Iosefa both have very little NFL experience. Iosefa has 15 career carries for 51 yards (3.4 yards per carry) and Gaffney has yet to play in the regular season as he has suffered season-ending injuries during the pre-season for the last two seasons. But both have done well so far at training camp while we have not seen much from Blount thus far in training camp notes as he is seemingly on the tail-end of his recovery from the hip injury that caused his 2015 season to be cut short. Iosefa filled in last season and actually ran the ball 14 times last season in a game against Tennessee, while Gaffney has fought injuries the past two seasons that has caused him to miss a lot of time.
It can certainly be argued that Blount is more proven and talented than both Iosefa and Gaffney, but there are other factors to keep in mind. Blount is scheduled to make $1 million dollars in 2016 while Iosefa ($450,000) and Gaffney ($450,000) don't even make that much combined. The team would obviously save cap space with keeping Iosefa and/or Gaffney over Blount. Also, as roster cuts are made later in the pre-season, the Patriots could be monitoring very closely for any potential running backs that might also fit the "big back" role. Running backs to keep in mind right now may be Knile Davis (Chiefs), Bishop Sankey (Titans), Christine Michael (Seahawks), and Stevan Ridley (Lions) to name a few as they have all been mentioned as players not guaranteed to make their teams respective 53 man rosters. Some free agents right now may also interest the Patriots as training camp and the preseason progress such as Toby Gerhart, Joique Bell and Pierre Thomas as well.
There is little to no doubt that at the moment, Blount is the favorite to win the Patriots "big back" role and possibly be relied upon a good amount with Tom Brady suspended for the first four games. But his minimal contract and how much time he has missed with the team this off-season, Blount can't be considered a "shoo-in" for the role either. The Patriots have always been known to pluck players that were discarded by their former teams and feature them, so it's not out of the question that we could see this again depending on who/becomes available in free agency. For now, Blount's job and roster spot seem safe, but it's not a guarantee that he is with the team come week one right now.
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