The 2022 season will be a very interesting one on the offensive side of the ball for the New England Patriots. Longtime offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels left the team to become the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, leaving an interesting combination of assistants in charge of moving the offense forward.
While quarterback Mac Jones figures to take a step forward in his second season, the Patriots can still be expected to feature the run heavily in 2022.
The team statistics really did tell New England’s offensive story in 2021. The Patriots ran the ball the eighth most times in the league, and scored 24 rushing touchdowns, good for second in the NFL. They used their ground attack to get them into scoring position, and once they got into the red zone, New England capitalized by continuing to do what worked for them.
Damien Harris handled the majority of carries, logging 202 on his way to a career high 15 rushing touchdowns in 2021. Over the course of his three year career with the Patriots, he had earned the respect of the coaching staff, and now appears to be the favorite to lead the backfield again in 2022. The former University of Alabama ballcarrier is a darkhorse pick to lead the league in rushing, considering how his team wants to play, and the lack of relative wear and tear on his body.
However, not be forgotten in New England’s rushing scheme is second-year player Rhamondre Stevenson. Just like Harris, Stevenson ran at a 4.6 yards per carry clip, which New England would gladly take this year as well.
It wasn’t totally clear how last year’s preseason darling would figure into New England’s plans, but he was too effective for the coaching staff to ignore. In games against the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars, Stevenson showed that he could be an effective primary option in the backfield should Harris miss any time.
He’s one of the team’s final remaining holdovers from the glory days. 30 year-old James White is still a part of the running back equation in New England, and will be a valuable player if he can stay healthy. He’s long been one of the most reliable and effective receiving threats out of the backfield, and will serve as a release for Jones if a passing play breaks down.
However, his ability to be a factor will be something to watch. White had hip surgery after suffering an injury in Week 3 of the 2021 season. The team might choose to take it slow with him during training camp, considering he does not need the same repetitions that his younger teammates would.
Pierre Strong Jr.
Despite a relatively strong running back room, New England added to it by selecting Pierre Strong in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He had a solid four year career with the South Dakota State Jackrabbits, but may not see too much action unless the Patriots experience significant injuries to their primary ballcarriers.