The New England Patriots released veteran running back Donald Brown on Tuesday, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Field Yates, as an early-camp injury ultimately doomed Brown's chances of sticking on the roster at a position where the club is thin.
Brown, who signed a one-year, $965,000 contract with the Patriots on March 17, was competing for a backup spot behind LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis, the latter of whom will open the season on the reserve/physically unable to perform list as he will undergo a second surgery on his left knee.
Brown had pulled up in the fifth practice of training camp -- members of the athletic training staff appeared to be checking his hamstring -- and hadn't been a full participant in practice since. He didn't play in the team's first two preseason games.
By releasing him, the Patriots thin their ranks at a position that was already short on depth. Blount is the top power option, while third-year man James White projects to step in for Lewis as the top "passing back" until his return. The team also has Brandon Bolden (5th year), Tyler Gaffney (3rd year), Joey Iosefa (2nd year) and undrafted rookie D.J. Foster at running back. Yesterday we reported White is getting more running reps. Brown, if healthy, was an option to both run the ball and receive to keep defenses guessing a little.
I believe the Patriots are looking for James White to showcase some versatility. He was too one-dimensional last year. I believe they're looking for Donald Brown to prove he can be an effective receiver when he lines up wide, something he hasn't often been asked to do in his seven-year career.
"Hey, we don't know," Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears said last week. "We haven't seen it. That doesn't mean (Brown) can't do it. I'll put it to you this way: I didn't think James White could do it out there like that, but I'm telling you what, once you get out there, those guys, they've got some sh-- about them.
And I believe the Pats want D.J. Foster to show at least some capability between the tackles before they commit to him.
It's likely that one of these three stick. There is, however, the possibility that two of the three make the team and the Pats cut Brandon Bolden.
Foster can be stashed on the practice squad.
Interestingly, one named not mentioned is LeGarrette Blount. It sounds like the team wants White to step up into a bigger role, but it also sounds like a lot needs to be sorted out behind Lewis before the end of camp. Lewis is the fantasy back to own in this offense, but especially in PPR leagues.
"I want to see the LeGarrette that I know can be a dominant player when he's playing up his stuff," Fears said. "I want to see him get back to that. He's been hurt, he's been away from us. There's a lot of opportunity there for him. Let's see what he can do. There's got to be some consistency in his play, there's got to be production. Of course with his size we expect to see some physicality."
When Fears says there is "a lot of opportunity" for Blount, he's not lying.
Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, the Patriots did not draft a bigger back, or any back, in April. They signed undrafted rookie D.J. Foster, a pure pass-catching back, and they signed veteran Donald Brown, who can play all three downs but has never been a 15-20 carry-per-game guy.
In theory, Blount should be in fine position to secure a roster spot and earn carries, the story said. He did not participate in the spring and is returning from a season-ending hip injury, so it'll be important that his conditioning is up to par. Either way, Dion Lewis is going to figure into this offense as well at the RB position, whether or not Blount is part of that 1-2 punch remains to be seen, but it sounds like the team wants him to.
Fox Sports reporting the Patriots have struck a deal with RB Donald Brown, the former UConn workhorse.
Brown is a versatile back who finished 28th in PPR formats back in 2013 when he took over for Trent Richardson in Indianapolis. Since then, he has averaged 3.14 YPC over two seasons for the Chargers. The San Diego running game was a dumpster fire last year, and the Patriots obviously believe that Brown still has gas left in the tank. He could conceivably form a one-two punch with Dion Lewis.