The New England Patriots are fresh off another loss to the New York Jets as injuries have hurt the team in the final weeks of the season. With the playoffs already locked in, the Patriots are not worried about that, but they are concerned about having a healthy and functioning offense come time for postseason play. With a majority of their offensive stars hurt and the backups fighting for roles, what will the offense look like in the next week or so?
The run game is an issue for the Patriots as the team lacks any kind of workhorse running back. LeGarrette Blount is done for the season. Dion Lewis has been out for a few weeks now and is not returning. That has left the Patriots with Brandon Bolden and James White which have not been enough. As a result, Steven Jackson was signed and now Bill Belichick wants the veteran as a starter.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, the Patriots will try to increase the role of Jackson after he had just seven carries for 15 yards against the Jets in his first game back this season. According to offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the Patriots have a lot of confidence in Jackson once he shakes off the rust from sitting out.
"I have a comfort level with him. I think our offensive staff, we kind of know him better than anybody that comes off the street that we've never really been exposed to," McDaniels said, via ESPN.com. "Secondly, he's certainly had exposure to the terminology and the verbiage that we use here so I think that that helps him to close the gap in terms of what he knows and what he doesn't know. He's well ahead of somebody that would come in here with zero experience in our system, and I think that would definitely help any new player that would come in at this point in time in the year."
With the No.1 seed not yet locked up, the Patriots are looking for a win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 17. The chances they have Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola both active for that game are very slim. According to NESN.com, Edelman could return as he has been practicing since healing from a foot injury, but Amendola could be out on Sunday. That will leave Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin to carry the load.
Martin has had a nice few games in wake of the injuries. He and Tom Brady have improved chemistry together and the coaching staff is noticing his improvement. That will be critical come the postseason when players like Edelman and Amendola try to shake off the rust from not playing.
"He's been a great addition, great teammate, and everybody likes to work with him," Belichick said, via ESPN.com. "He's alert, he's sharp, ready to go, competes hard, practices well. I think he's improved significantly, both in his kicking game, ball handling and also his offensive receiving work, route techniques, ball skills, adjustments and so forth. Even though it was a later starting time, his performance has just kind of improved every week, and I think there is a lot of confidence in him."