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Patriots' running game still a work in progress without LeGarrette Blount

The Eagles have used LeGarrette Blount effectively for short, tough yards. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Watching former New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount on "Thursday Night Football" sparked a few Patriots-related thoughts:

  • Don't know what you've got until it's gone?

  • Short-yardage inconsistency has been an early-season issue for the running game.

  • The Patriots haven't yet had a game plan that has relied primarily on the run.

It's a small sample size, for sure, but watching the 250-pound Blount surge through some nicely blocked openings for the Philadelphia Eagles -- and also gain some hard-earned yardage in the red zone and on a successful two-point conversion in a 28-23 victory -- served as a reminder of what the Patriots voluntarily moved on from this offseason. Blount, who struggled at times with blitz pickup, still has it as a power runner.

As for what the Patriots have in place of Blount, it's still a developing picture outside of super-steady "passing back" James White.

Mike Gillislee, the restricted free-agent signing from the Buffalo Bills, enters Sunday's road game against the New York Jets with 246 yards on 69 carries (3.6 average) and four touchdowns (compared to Blount's 323 yards on 56 carries and one touchdown entering Thursday).

Dion Lewis is coming off his best game of the season against the Buccaneers, looking arguably as close to his pre-injury form as ever before. He has 99 yards on 19 carries (5.2 average) and one touchdown.

And Rex Burkhead has flashed signs of being an effective dual threat when healthy, as he's expected to make his return to action Sunday after missing the past three games with an injury to his ribs.

In part because of matchups, and also as a result of them not having control of the scoreboard, the Patriots have trended more toward the passing game in their 3-2 start. Tom Brady has attempted 195 passes, while the Patriots have amassed 128 rushing attempts.

That plus-67 differential between pass and run ties for the eighth largest in the NFL, which generally isn't healthy. Consider that of the top nine teams with the largest differential between the pass and run, their combined record is 15-29. It's a group that includes all three winless teams -- the New York Giants (plus-102), the Cleveland Browns (plus-80) and the San Francisco 49ers (plus-78).

Perhaps most concerning has been that when the Patriots have needed to gain 1 yard, their results have been up and down. Last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gillislee was stopped for no gain on second-and-1, and then the Patriots went to the shotgun and a pass-first formation on third-and-1 (and didn't get it).

A few weeks ago, Bill Belichick noted, "If you can't get a yard in this league, then that's going to eventually catch up to you."

Although not always perfect when he was called upon during his time with the Patriots, and though he ended his tenure with a disappointing performance in Super Bowl LI that included a lost fumble, Blount's hard-charging style brought that type of grind-it-out attitude to the New England offense.

It was on display Thursday night, to the benefit of the Eagles.

As for if the Patriots can develop that without him in 2017, it remains to be seen.