FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots host the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night, which is timely because the team’s recent deployment of wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as a running back has a Packers-like twist to it.
That was one of the points that running backs coach Ivan Fears made Wednesday when asked about Patterson leading the team with 10 carries for 38 yards in Monday’s win over the Buffalo Bills.
Emphasizing that it wasn’t a big deal, Fears noted that the Packers had done something similar when they turned Ty Montgomery from a receiver to a running back in 2016. It was often unusual to see No. 88 running the ball for the Packers the last two years before his trade to Baltimore, just as it was Monday night to watch No. 84 taking handoffs that a traditional running back would normally be getting.
“Come on! It’s nothing new,” Fears said in his always-excitable delivery. “This is football. You have 11 guys and you take the best guys you can throw on the field, and if they can make a play for you, you try to get them in position. We had a need. We thought this was a great idea, because if you give that kid the ball, he makes things happen. So how many ways can we find a way to give him the ball? Hell, just line him up back there and give it to him! Let him run! Don’t make it harder than that.”
The Patriots did that 10 times with Patterson, compared to eight with James White and twice with Kenjon Barner, and Patterson – who had played some halfback with the Raiders, according to Bill Belichick -- loved it. After the game, he said he hopes to get 25 carries this week.
It’s also possible that he might not get any if rookie running back Sony Michel (knee) is ready to return. Without Michel, the Patriots were down to just two healthy running backs. They could have promoted Kenneth Farrow from the practice squad, but that would have required another roster move to make room for him.
Instead, they turned to Patterson.
“We needed help. The answers were not too many, not many choices,” Fears said of the team’s thought process in turning to Patterson. “There was one looking right at us, and he was willing. He was like, ‘Hey! I can do that.’ Really? Well, let’s see. And then you thought about it, well, yeah.
“You have injuries and stuff you have to deal with, you don’t always have space to get people. You have to use what you got.”
Prior to that point, the Patriots had used Patterson as more of a gadget option on offense.
As for how much Patterson might be used as a traditional running back in the weeks to come, Belichick hinted that what unfolded Monday was more of a short-term fix because of the temporary personnel shortage.
“We had a couple things for him and didn’t have a lot of depth at running back, so we were able to utilize him as part of the group at that position,” Belichick said on sports radio WEEI. “A couple plays he got whacked pretty good. But he runs hard, he’s tough, has good size, good power. I don’t think it’s ... we’ll see how it goes.
“We’ll see where we’re at relative to who’s available and how we want to structure the game plan. But I’d say [running back depth is] a concern.”