A year ago at this time, the thought of adding a talented running back like Felix Jones would have seemed like a no-brainer for the Patriots. Now, though? The excitement level may not be quite so high.
Jones was in New England for a workout on Thursday, as the Patriots took at least an exploratory look at adding the versatile runner. With a stable already well-equipped with workhorses – Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount – and change-of-pace backs – Shane Vereen and Leon Washington — the Patriots don’t seem to need an additional pair of legs.
Now, depth is something that every team is in search of, and Jones would help fill that need at running back. He would also provide some competition for the group over the summer, pushing Vereen and Washington and challenging for a roster spot.
Jones, who just recently turned 26, isn’t fit to be an every-down back in the NFL, and his injury history, which has limited him to just two fully healthy seasons, only proves that point. In a place like New England, Jones wouldn’t be expected to be that primary ball carrier, though. His principal role with the Patriots would be to alter the pace of the offense and catch the ball out of the backfield — something he excelled at in Dallas.
While he never carried the full load with the Cowboys, always deferring to a two-back system, Jones did consistently contribute in the passing game. He caught 48 passes in 2010 followed by 33 in 2011 and 25 in limited action last season. That sort of production would help the Patriots account for the loss of Danny Woodhead, but that’s even if Jones was given the opportunity.
Vereen was already stealing snaps away from Woodhead at the end of the last season, finally asserting himself as the versatile back the Patriots were hoping for when they used a second-round pick on him in 2011. Add Washington’s ability as a third-down back into the mix, and suddenly Jones’ place on the Patriots becomes even less certain.
Jones has the talent and ability to make an impact in the Patriots’ offense. His speed and flexibility even make him a perfect fit for the fast-paced spread style that Josh McDaniels enjoys so much. But between the grind-it-out work of Ridley and the presence of both Vereen and Washington, Jones would just seem like more of a redundancy than anything else.
There’s nothing wrong with bringing him into camp and giving him a go but, even for a player as supremely talented as Jones, he seems more like overflow than a nice, clean fit.
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