FOXBORO, Mass. — How do you keep four talented running backs happy? That’s not Bill Belichick’s concern.
Asked Wednesday about the difficulty of dividing snaps and touches between Mike Gillislee, James White, Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, the New England Patriots coach said his focus is on calling the plays that will move his team down the field most efficiently, not ones geared toward getting each back into a groove.
“I think gaining yards is important for any offense, so if you?re gaining yards, you?re going to be in rhythm,” Belichick said. “If you?re not gaining yards, then I don?t know where the rhythm comes from. I mean, I don?t know. You tell me — five carries for 10 yards. Is that a rhythm? Two for 16? I don?t know. Is that a rhythm?
“Look, our job is to move the ball and score points. That?s what we?re here for. We?re not here to have rhythm. We?re here to score points.”
Gillislee (15 carries, 45 yards, three touchdowns) and White (10 carries, 38 yards; three catches, 30 yards) played more prominent roles in last Thursday’s season-opening loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. They were on the field for 24 and 43 offensive snaps, respectively, while Burkhead played just 10 and Lewis six.
But with Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels known for changing their offensive game plan to fit each opponent, that distribution could be completely different this Sunday against the New Orleans Saints and could change yet again in Week 3 against the Houston Texans.
“In the end, you try to do what?s best for your team,” Belichick said. “I think that?s what every coach does, so that?s what we try to do. I?m sure that?s what other coaches that have depth at a position try to do — try to do what?s best for the football team.”
What does that all mean? It means we probably won’t see another Patriots back rush for 1,000 yards like LeGarrette Blount did last season. It also means teams will have a hard time knowing what to expect on the ground when they play New England this season.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images