It was announced Tuesday that former Cincinnati Bengals running back Rex Burkhead would be the latest addition to the Patriots’ high-powered offense.
The 26 year-old Burkhead spent four years in Cincinnati. After racking up just 31 rushing yards and 143 receiving yards in his first three seasons combined, he finally had his breakout year in 2016. As well as being a key part of their special teams coverage, he surpassed Giovanni Bernard as the Bengals’ number two back behind Jeremy Hill and finished with 344 rushing yards and 145 receiving yards. Some might even say he outplayed Hill.
We know how much Bill Belichick loves versatile, hard-working players who are willing to take on any role to help their team win. That’s exactly what he’s getting with Rex Burkhead. In fact, this might be the most Belichick-like signing that Belichick has ever made.
Burkhead will replace what we’ll lose on special teams with Brandon Bolden becoming a free agent, and he’ll take a lot of snaps at running back with the likely departure of LeGarrette Blount.
There’s no doubt that the Patriots have a lot of depth at the running back position, but the question now is whether or not they have enough size. Burkhead comes in at 5’10”, 214 pounds, so he is a little stockier than Dion Lewis and James White and has the ability to be more of a power runner in addition to catching passes out of the backfield and using his quickness. But when all you need is a couple yards, having a 250 pound truck like LeGarrette is something that this offense could end up missing.
That’s not to say Burkhead isn’t capable of shedding tackles and driving and the pile, just look at his highlights from last season:
Despite the size difference, it’s hard to say Burkhead isn’t an upgrade over Blount due to his versatility. It’s clear the Patriots think so too when you look at the details of the contract. There’s no chance they’d ever give 1 year/3.5 million to a one-dimensional player.
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Photo Credit: John Grieshop/Getty Images via CBS Boston