ATLANTA — When running backs Sony Michel, Jeremy Hill and Rex Burkhead all were both down with injuries midway through the 2018 season, the New England Patriots took a creative approach to fill out their depth.
Rather than signing a running back, they simply moved Cordarrelle Patterson from wide receiver. He received 21 carries for 99 yards between Week 8 and 9 in wins over the Buffalo Bills and Green Bay Packers.
He had 42 carries for 228 yards with one touchdown overall during the 2018 season. He led Patriots ball carriers in yards after contact per attempt. He might have even been better as a running back than he was as a receiver, where he caught 21 passes for 247 yards with three touchdowns.
So, that raises the question: Could he do it full time?
“I?m sure he could,” running backs coach Ivan Fears said Thursday. “I?m sure he could. It?s a pounding. That?s hard. I don?t know how much he?s used to that on a long-term basis. But, hey, why not? In some of these offenses, why not? That?s the way I look at it. I know one thing: He?s a talented son of a gun. You get the ball in his hands, he can make some plays, and that?s what he?s all about.”
Patterson’s willing to do it in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, but he seemed a little hesitant about making a permanent switch.
“If Ivan needs me to take 30 carries Sunday, I can take 30 carries,” Patterson said. “If that’s what he wants, I can do it for him. Just for him.
“All season, I have to prepare myself for that. That’s a lot of big boys down there, and you get hit every play, so if I prepared myself for it, I think I can do it.”
He said he’d just need to shift around some of his weight and add some muscle.
“Then I can handle it,” Patterson said.
Patterson is a free agent after the season. He’s probably best utilized the way the Patriots used him this season as a versatile chess piece. But he showed promise as a running back with limited experience in the role.