In revamping RB position, Bill Belichick sees more versatility, unpredictability

Bill Belichick and the Patriots like the versatility of Mike Gillislee and this year's running backs. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick has revamped the New England Patriots' running back position in 2017, and he shared insight into his thinking during an interview on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

In not bringing back power runner LeGarrette Blount, who had 18 rushing touchdowns in 2016, the Patriots have a much different look after signing Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead in free agency.

"We'll have to see how that all comes together. I would say that I think this year we're trying ... we have a little bit more versatility than we had in the past. LeGarrette was a very good short-yardage, first- and second-down type of guy," Belichick said on the "Movin' The Chains" show hosted by Pat Kirwan and Jim Miller.

"I think Burkhead has ability on all four downs. I think Gillislee maybe has a little more overall versatility. Dion Lewis can play on all three downs. James White, as we saw later in the year last year, can play more on all three downs, although we used him more as a third-down player. [Brandon] Bolden can play on all three downs, so it will be interesting to see how all that competition unfolds."

The Patriots also have second-year running back D.J. Foster -- whose pass-catching skills are one of his best assets -- and undrafted rookie LeShun Daniels Jr. of Iowa.

Last week, running back coach Ivan Fears previously said the Patriots are looking for a rusher to play power football for them, and Gillislee stepped to the forefront in that role during the first live goal-line drill in training camp. The 215-pound Gillislee powered up the middle on a physical A-gap run to score a touchdown and then followed fullback James Develin off left tackle to score with relative ease on his second rep.

That was the domain of the 250-pound Blount in recent seasons, but while the Patriots are giving up some size in that area, they are optimistic about what else they might be gaining.

"Hopefully we will be a little bit less of a Blount on first down [and] second-and-short, Lewis on second down, White on third down -- that type of [setup]," Belichick said on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

"Part of that for us was getting our best player to do what he does best type of thing. Hopefully, this year, we'll have a little more balance between the running game and passing game. Again, LG was primarily a runner. He didn't have a lot of receiving production. The reverse is true of James White. So hopefully with our backs this year we'll have a little more balance and be a little less predictable from that spot."