Mike Gillislee's usage shows he's Patriots' top option as power RB

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- At the start of New England Patriots training camp in late July, running backs coach Ivan Fears said the team was looking to find out which running back would play power football for it in 2017. The only way to find out was in full-pads practices, and on the first goal-line drill of camp, Mike Gillislee got the ball and powered up the middle on a decisive touchdown run.

That was the first indication that Gillislee was the top option, which is how it played out in Thursday night’s 42-27 season-opening loss to the Chiefs. Gillislee set a career high with three rushing touchdowns (2, 2 and 1 yard).

“Mike ran hard,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “We’re going to need that all season from him.”

While that was one of the obvious positive developments for the Patriots on an overall disappointing night, coach Bill Belichick still lamented that Gillislee (15 rushes, 45 yards) was stopped twice on fourth-and-1 rushes.

Gillislee’s usage as the team’s top power running back highlights this week’s snap-count analysis:

Offense: 81 snaps

Defense: 69 snaps


James White – 43

Gillislee – 24

Rex Burkhead – 10

Dion Lewis – 6

At halftime, Gillislee led the team with 17 snaps, but then it turned into more of a passing game in the second half as the Chiefs pulled away, which is why White (15 first-half snaps) had such a high total by game’s end. The Patriots had success running inside on the Chiefs’ dime defense (six defensive backs) early in the game with White.


Chris Hogan – 73

Brandin Cooks – 67

Danny Amendola – 32

Phillip Dorsett – 18

Cooks and Hogan are the clear 1-2 on the depth chart, and Amendola was the pure No. 3. When Amendola left the game in the second half with a head injury, Dorsett -- who had his first practice with the team Sunday -- filled in. With Malcolm Mitchell going on IR before the game, and now Amendola’s availability in question, the Patriots might have to consider a personnel addition at receiver for Week 2 in New Orleans.


Rob Gronkowski – 78

Dwayne Allen – 27

Nate Solder – 8

Gronkowski played the first 38 snaps of the game, so there was no easing-in process for him as had been the case in recent seasons. He was all-in. With no third tight end active, the Patriots made Solder, their left tackle, an eligible receiver in short-yardage situations and inserted backup offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle into the game.


LG Joe Thuney – 81

C David Andrews – 81

RG Shaq Mason – 81

RT Marcus Cannon – 81

LT Solder – 73

LT LaAdrian Waddle – 8

For not playing a snap in the preseason, and missing multiple weeks of practice, Solder’s conditioning to go wire to wire stood out.


Tom Brady – 81

The Chiefs played more coverage and Brady’s accuracy wasn’t as pinpoint as the norm, as evidenced by his first throw of the game to open tight end Dwayne Allen, an incompletion along the left sideline.


Trey Flowers – 69

Dont’a Hightower – 35

Cassius Marsh – 24

Deatrich Wise – 18

Hightower played more on the line of scrimmage as the Patriots were primarily in a dime defense. When he went out with a knee injury in the third quarter, it thrust Marsh into the game despite his having just arrived via trade on Sunday. As one might expect, the results were rocky at times.


Malcom Brown – 49

Alan Branch – 42

Lawrence Guy – 26

Adam Butler – 21

Butler, the undrafted free agent from Vanderbilt, rushed from a nose tackle position in some obvious pass-rushing situations. He seemed to contribute to creating some disruption.


Kyle Van Noy – 69

Elandon Roberts – 9

David Harris – 2

In the dime package, the Patriots favor a more athletic, rangy linebacker to be at the heart of the action, which is why Van Noy got the call over Roberts and Harris, who are more traditional early-down linebackers who excel most playing downhill in the running game.


Stephon Gilmore – 69

Malcolm Butler – 69

Eric Rowe – 37

Jonathan Jones – 3

Rowe was the third corner, and he came onto the field in place of a safety in the dime package when the Chiefs had their three-receiver package in the game. If Rowe plays more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps in 2017, the Patriots would send a third-round pick to the Eagles to complete last year’s trade. If he comes in below that play-time percentage, it will be a fourth-rounder.


Devin McCourty – 68

Duron Harmon – 63

Patrick Chung – 45

Jordan Richards – 42

Richards, who played 18 defensive snaps all last season, was utilized in more of a linebacker role close to the line of scrimmage in the dime package. Chung was usually the safety rotated out of the game when the Chiefs were in their three-receiver package, subbed out for a cornerback.