Patriots running back Brandon Bolden sure knows how to make an entrance.
After missing the first two weeks of the season with a knee injury, Bolden made sure to make the most of his 2013 debut. The second-year back stepped right into the starting lineup and wound up pacing the team with 100 total yards.
Bolden got most of his rushing yards on a beautiful 46 yard cutback run, as he only got three carries compared to Stevan Ridley's 11 and LaGarrette Blount's 14 (12 of which came on the final two drives of the game with the team in clock killing mode). However, Bolden's versatility came up big for the Patriots, as the back tallied 5 catches for 49 yards, most of them on screen passes.
The back did have one notable screw-up, as he misjudged a deep pass attempt from Tom Brady and stopped running. However, why the team chose Bolden as the guy to take a deep shot at Darrelle Revis is one of the great mysteries of our time.
With Shane Vereen out until at least Week 11, Bolden's versatility could push him up the team's depth chart at running back for the time being. While all three of the team's healthy backs have their own, hard-nosed style of running, Bolden offers a combination of pass catching ability and ball security that neither Ridley or Blount can match at the moment.
This isn't to say Bolden will (or should) overtake those two as the team's lead back. Each ball carrier brings something different to the table and all of them will be utilized depending on the in-game matchups. The Patriots clearly gave Blount a chance to bleed the clock at the end of the Bucs game and he delivered, tallying 51 of his 65 yards during a solid drive that took 4:41 off the clock. Ridley didn't exactly set the world on fire with his 11 carries, but he did showcase the burst that got him 1,200 yards last season and remains the back with the highest upside running the ball.
However, Bolden has proven to be a solid ball carrier as well, and his ability in the passing game could be a boon for a team looking to generate easier yards. The screen game, largely absent during the first two games, came alive with Bolden on Sunday. Not only are screens an easy way to get cheap yards, but they also serve to neutralize a pass rush, something that could really come in handy with Cincinnati's vaunted defensive line looming on the schedule. Bolden also provides excellent value as a reliable blocker in pass protection.
The addition of LaGarrette Blount combined with Bolden's four game suspension last year for violating the league's drug policy had some thinking the second-year back would be out of a job come cutdown day. Now the fumbling issues of Ridley have combined with Vereen's injury and Blount's lack of versatility to give the former Ole Miss Rebel a golden opportunity to get some touches and contribute to the team's offense. Look for Bolden to continue to make the most of those opportunities this week against the banged-up Falcons.