When running back Jonas Gray was promoted to the 53-man roster hours before Thursday night’s game against the Jets, it was tough to read how long he would be around.
But between his activation and participation (12 of 60 offensive snaps as well as special-teams repetitions), it appears Gray is here to stay.
Coach Bill Belichick addressed the decision to move Gray from the practice squad and the opportunity that he has going forward with Stevan Ridley sidelined for the season.
“I think Jonas has been solid for us all the way through preseason,” Belichick said. “He’s done a good job in practice and got an opportunity last night -- not a lot of opportunities -- but he had some blitz pickup opportunities and a few carries. He works hard and he’s a tough kid, a bigger back obviously -- more in the Ridley size range.
“And he played for us in the kicking game as well. Keep going with that and this is just an opportunity for him, unfortunately the way it came out, but he’s worked hard and he deserves it. We will see what he can do with it.”
Gray, a 5-foot-10 and 230-pound physical runner out of Notre Dame, played in his first career NFL game in the 27-25 win over the Jets. Gray received the nod to play over rookie running back James White, as Gray provides the Patriots with a stronger runner who would be tough to take down in the wet weather conditions. Earlier in the week, Gray said he and Ridley have a similar style and that he wants to run with Ridley’s passion.
It’s difficult to get a read on how many carries Gray will receive in the immediate future, though he looked strong in blitz pickup. But the opportunity is there for Gray and the other running backs.
“We are going to have to build some timing and execution without Stevan back there, whether that’s Jonas or more Shane [Vereen], Brandon [Bolden], James White, whoever is carrying the ball,” Belichick said. “Obviously there’s a lot of reps that we had with Stevan as the back and now we won’t have.
“Other guys will have to help the line set up their blocks, read the blocking patterns with more frequency than they have done in the past relative to the number of carries and reps in practice that Stevan had," Belichick added. "That will all be part of it going forward for us as well.”