RUNNING BACKS: Ridley takes the lead

RUNNING BACKS: Ridley takes the lead
July 11, 2013, 11:15 am
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Mary Paoletti will be previewing each Patriots position up until the start of camp in her daily "Roster Reset". Yesterday, she previewed the fullbacks. Today, she takes a look at running backs.

Returning:
Stevan Ridley - 3rd season
Shane Vereen - 3rd season
Brandon Bolden - 2nd season

Incoming:
Leon Washington - 8th season
LeGarrette Blount - 4th season
George Winn - Rookie

News of note: Stevan Ridley amassed 1,263 yards rushing in first season as lead back and will be hunting down another quadruple-digit season this year. Danny Woodhead, now in San Diego, had the second-most running back snaps in 2012. His departure will push Shane Vereen up ahead, with Brandon Bolden or Leon Washington coming in on third down and short-yardage situations. Washington's status is bolstered by his work in Seattle as a return specialist. The 30-year old ran back 104 punts and 127 kickoffs in three years with the Seahawks

Note that Bolden missed offseason workouts to rehab an ankle sprain. He's expected to be ready for camp, but the injury is something to keep an eye on.

It will be interesting to see if the Patriots keep five backs, and perhaps leave room for an extra receiver, or all six. LeGarrette Blount took a $620,000 pay cut in his trade from Tampa Bay to make the deal relatively safe for New England. But the team may be less inclined to keep a player with character issues (he was given just 41 carries in 2012, after having 184 the season before, because of a bad attitude) after such a tumultuous offseason. Blount could be on a short leash in camp.

Potentially battling for that last spot is George Winn. The 5-10, 218-pounder had some impressive numbers in his senior season at Cincinnati: 1,334 yards and 13 touchdowns on 243 carries. Houston signed Winn after the draft, but cut him after rookie mini-camp. What inspired New England scoop him up? Winn's college recruitment came from former Bearcats, current Notre Dame Irish head coach, Brian Kelly. Kelly is a friend of Bill Belichick and visited Patriots mini-camp the week before Winn was signed. Coincidence? Unlikely.