“We were able to get Mike (Gillislee) a few carries and a few plays in the game,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I think he still has quite a ways to go. He has missed some practices this (summer) and missed some practices last spring. He’s worked hard to stay on top of things and to stay caught up, and we’ve worked hard to catch up, but we still have some ground to make up.”
This after Gillislee did have a 1-yard touchdown rush and a 27-yard burst against the Lions in New England's third preseason game, but in his other seven carries he only generated 11 yards. One savvy draft tactic is to target talented free agent backups when they land in good situations with new teams. It has worked in the past with Michael Turner, Darren Sproles, LaMont Jordan and Chester Taylor – remember those last two names? – and Gillislee jumps out as a good of a bet as any this year. Over the past two seasons, he has gained 844 yards on 148 carries (5.70 yards per carry) and found the end zone 12 times. In fact, among running backs with at least eight rush attempts inside the opponent's 5-yard line over the past two seasons, Gillislee is tied with Le’Veon Bell for the highest touchdown conversion rate (70.0 percent) in the league. With LeGarrette Blount off to Philadelphia, the Patriots are looking for a runner who can handle the power running game along with those short-yardage duties and Gillislee certainly fits the bill. As 4for4’s Chris Raybon mentioned in his in-depth examination of the New England backfield, the Patriots consistently rank in the top four in the number of plays run inside the opponent’s 10-yard line, so double-digit touchdowns are a distinct possibility for Gillislee. He’s also better equipped than Blount to stay on the field in some passing situations, and if he starts getting third-down/hurry-up work, watch out. The main concern right now is that Gillislee has missed a good chunk of camp with a hamstring injury.