Patriots

The Belichick Era Patriots Team: RB1 – Going with slow and steady over talent among primary backs

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Since there isn't a whole lot going on, I had a BSJ member in a chat suggest doing an all-Patriots team from the Belichick era, and I tucked it away for when things really slowed. Thinking now is the time.

This is going to be a real team, not some participation trophy team like the Patriots' official All-Decade squad. The offensive positions:

QB: Tom Brady. DUH.
RB1: First two downs.
3D RB: Third-down back.
FB: Fullback.
X WR: Left boundary.
Slot WR: Slot.
Z WR: Right boundary.
TE1: Rob Gronkowski.
TE2: Move tight end.
Offensive line: LT, LG, C, RG, RT.

Since we all know the QB and TE, let's move right on to RB1, which is the guy who gets the carries to start a series.

NOMINEES

Antowain Smith (2001-03): Toted the rock for two title-winning teams when they were built around a strong defense and strong running game. Third on the per-game list with 61.8 yards.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 45 games, 36 starts, 721 attempts, 2,781 yards, 3.86 average, 21 TDs. Was probably at his most productive and consistent in the postseason:

Corey Dillion (2004-06): The former Bengal led all Patriots running backs the past two decades with 74.0 yards per game and 37 touchdowns. Helped the team to one Super Bowl title during a time when the passing offense opened up a little bit. Has the franchise record with 1,635 yards in 2004.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 43 games, 37 starts, 753 attempts, 3,180 yards, 4.22 average, 37 TDs. Postseason:

Laurence Maroney (2006-09): The controversial first-round pick in 2006 didn't help to produce any Lombardi trophies during a time when the passing game became the dominating factor on offense. Was surprised to see his Approximate Value was the same as Smith and right behind Dillion.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 45 games, 14 starts, 582 attempts, 2,430 yards, 4.18 average, 21 TDs. Postseason:

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (2008-11): The Law Firm made his bones on special teams for a time, which accounts for his low per-game average — he was a better back than that. He had the franchise's only 1,000-yard season (1,008 yards in 2010) between 2004 and '12. Didn't get a ring, but came close in '11.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 53 games, 20 starts, 510 attempts, 2,064 yards, 4.0 average, 29 TDs. Postseason:

Stevan Ridley (2011-14): It's a shame a knee injury in 2014 robbed him of the opportunity to continue his career in New England because he was a very productive back, who was taken in the third round in '11. Patriots single-season rushing leaders are Corey Dillon (2004), Curtis Martin (1995), Jim Nance (1966) ... and Ridley (1,263 in '12). Besides Dion Lewis, who only played 30 games, Ridley has the highest per-carry average (4.34) among all these backs as a Patriot.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 52 games, 25 starts, 649 attempts, 2,817 yards, 4.3 average, 22 TDs. Postseason:

LeGarrette Blount (2013-16): Blount Force Trauma was about as perfect a finisher as a team could ask for. Once the passing offense softened up some bad defenses, the big man with the surprising speed would come in and put the exclamation point on the victory. Had 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns in '16 before finishing his career with the Eagles and then Lions. Needed some good blocking up front to get going.

Regular-season Patriots stats: 49 games, 22 starts, 677 attempts, 2,917 yards, 4.3 average, 34 TDs. Postseason:

DISCUSSION/PICK