By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The events of Week 1 took a toll on a number of NFL teams, and the Patriots were not exempt.
On Monday afternoon, reports surfaced that the worst-case scenario — a torn ACL — was indeed the case for Jeremy Hill. And with that injury goes much of the Patriots’ plan regarding the running back situation. Presumably, the team that entered the season with four running backs would most likely prefer to continue having four running backs, at least for a period lasting longer than one week.
Of course, accounting for what Hill was expected to contribute is a bit difficult. He was coming off an injury-shortened season in Cincinnati, and he was in his first season with the Patriots. His roster spot didn’t even appear to be set in stone until late in the summer, so it’s possible that the Patriots could continue without a replacement, instead relying on Rex Burkhead, James White and rookie Sony Michel for the bulk of the work.
But realistically, the odds of those three staying healthy from now until February aren’t great. It’s likely the Patriots will have to begin making decisions that add to depth at the position. They may not make a move until they feel it’s necessary, but for the time being, here are some options available to the team.
The most easily available player, Webb is on the practice squad at the moment. The 23-year-old undrafted rookie out of Vanderbilt flashed in the Patriots’ preseason opener, with 46 rushing yards and two touchdowns in addition to a nice catch for a two-point conversion. He obviously lacks NFL experience but he has a leg up on any outsiders with regard to understanding the Patriots’ offense.
The Patriots hosted Darkwa for a visit in April, but nothing ever came from it. In fact, nothing ever came from anything for Darkwa, which makes you wonder why.
Last year with the Giants, Darkwa rushed for 751 yards and five touchdowns. He caught 19 balls for 116 yards too. It was by far the best of his four NFL seasons. Just 26 years old, Darkwa remains unsigned. He reportedly visited the Redskins in mid-August.
Here’s someone who was employed by the Patriots as recently as Sept. 1. He had an extraordinarily brief tenure with the Patriots, signing on Aug. 27 and getting waived on Sept. 1. He had five carries for 24 yards in the Patriots’ preseason finale before getting cut.
Farrow hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2016. That season, with the Chargers, he ran for 192 yards on six carries (4.6 yards per carry). That season ended with an injury, and he missed all of the 2017 season as well. At 5-foot-9, he’s a shorter back, but the Patriots liked him enough to at least bring him in once.
Lacy is on this list to serve as “Person That People Have Heard Of.” But beyond that, he wouldn’t offer much. He played in just nine games last year, rushing for a total of 179 yards while failing to score a touchdown. He is, though, technically available.
Another name that people know well, the veteran back sought work this summer but did not find it. That’s likely because he’s coming off three unproductive seasons — two of which were marred by injury. His best days are obviously behind him, and even his good days appear to be a thing of the past as well.
A local name, Todman played at Dartmouth High School and played collegiately at UConn. He’s put together a seven-year NFL career since then, rushing for 531 yards and three touchdowns on 124 carries for the Jaguars, Steelers, and Colts. Last year with the Texans, he worked exclusively on special teams and did not accumulate any offensive touches. He was an effective kick returner two years ago with the Colts, averaging a tick under 30 yards per return and taking one kick 99 yards for a touchdown.
Might as well throw in another name familiar to local football fans, as the former Boston College standout remains unemployed. He finds himself in that predicament because he hasn’t produced at the NFL level since his rookie season. He rushed for 721 yards and seven touchdowns as a rookie in 2014 for the Giants, who drafted him in the fourth round. But in the three seasons since, he’s rushed for 369 yards and one touchdown on 115 carries for the Giants and Chargers. His 2017 season ended early due to a broken wrist.
Williams had an unbelievable senior season for the Boston College Eagles, rushing for 2,177 yards and 18 touchdowns. He was a Heisman finalist, and the Doak Walker Award winner. His NFL hasn’t panned out since then.
Clearly, the Patriots won’t find any MVP candidates on the free-agent market. And for the short term, they’re going to lean heavily on White and Burkhead. They’d probably like to work in Michel sooner than later, without relying too heavily on a rookie who’s already fighting injuries.
But in the background, the team will clearly have to do some homework in bringing on another player to at least build depth.