FOXBORO, Mass. — In terms of offensive production, Brandon Bolden might be the sixth-best running back on the New England Patriots’ 90-man roster, ahead of only undrafted rookie LeShun Daniels.
Yet Bolden enters Week 3 of the NFL preseason with a reasonably good chance of cracking the Patriots’ final 53-man list for the sixth consecutive year.
Why? Two reasons.
One, Bolden is a core special teamer for the Patriots and has been for years. And two, head coach Bill Belichick absolutely loves him.
During his Monday afternoon news conference, Belichick was effusive in his praise of the 27-year-old back, who has been with the Patriots since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2012.
“Brandon has played for us on all three downs,” Belichick said. “He’s played on the early downs. He’s played in sub situations. He’s a smart player and has a good set of skills. He can run. He can catch. He can pass protect. He’s given us a lot of production and leadership in the kicking game. He does a good job in the room — running back room or special teams room — of being prepared, helping out the younger guys.
“He’s a good communicator. He’s on the punt team, punt return, where things can happen pretty fast and you need to make some adjustments. He’s good at that. Very good in blitz pickup and his understanding of the passing game. He’s a four-down player, three-down offensive player, with versatility in the kicking game and all the different phases.”
Belichick has spoken similarly in the past about fullback James Develin, another Patriots player who lacks the name recognition of a Tom Brady or a Rob Gronkowski.
Bolden and Develin both re-signed with the Patriots earlier this year after their previous contracts expired. The former is on the roster bubble along with fellow running back D.J. Foster, as Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White and Mike Gillislee all look like roster locks while Daniels is likely to be cut.
“I think there’s good competition there, absolutely,” Belichick said, referring to his team’s deep running back group. “I think there’s real good competition. (The running backs) are all a little bit different. They’re not really apples to apples — these guys do the same thing, which one’s better?
“One guy might be a little better at one thing, another guy a little better at something else. Another guy plays in the kicking game. One guy has a little more size, another guy is a little faster. They come in different packages. They’ve been productive.”
Bolden, who was on the field for just 13 offensive snaps last season, played in each of the Patriots’ first two preseason games, carrying the ball five times for 33 yards against the Jacksonville Jaguars and eight times for 33 yards against the Houston Texans. He also caught two passes for 24 yards against Jacksonville.
Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images