As the 2021 season was set to begin, many considered the Patriots' running game to be the strength of their offense. Protected by a powerful offensive line, Pats runners such as Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor and rookie Rhmondre Stevenson were expected to provide the team with a diverse rushing attack. Though New England has shown flashes of prowess in their running game, those moments have not been as abundant as previously anticipated.
While an injury to starting right tackle Trent Brown has contributed to the Pats’ lack of production in the running game, there have been several reasons to give the team and its fans cause for concern. On Sunday, they gained another when team captain James White suffered a hip injury in their Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. It was reported on Monday that White suffered a subluxation of the hip. According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport and Mike Giardi, White is “out indefinitely.” As a result, the Pats find themselves in need of help at the running back position.
Enter Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack, perhaps?
The idea has merit.
The Colts’ prolific running back has seen sporadic action on the field thus far, in 2021, leading some to question the manner in which head coach Frank Reich is utilizing his once-feature back. Interestingly enough, Mack was recently supplanted in the team’s unofficial depth chart by fellow backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins as the second and third options behind top runner Jonathan Taylor.
After missing Sunday’s Week 3 matchup against the Tennessee Titans as a ‘healthy scratch,’ it appears the two sides are headed their separate ways. Per several league sources, the Colts are considering trading Mack, who signed a one-year deal to return to Indianapolis in the offseason. Despite suffering a season-ending tear of his Achilles’ in Indy’s 2020 season opener, Mack is (by all accounts) healthy and ready to be productive.
At his best, Mack is a versatile runner, with the ability to rush both for power, and speed. Throughout his career, the 25-year-old has amassed 2,399 yards with 20 touchdowns. While injury kept him from the field last season, Mack compiled his two most productive seasons in 2018 (908 rushing yards, 9 touchdowns) and 2019 (1,091 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns.) Mack is also no stranger to being used as a situational receiver. He has 55 career receptions on 440 receiving yards, and two receiving touchdowns.
As such, Mack possesses the skills necessary to help alleviate the loss of White on the field. The Pats team captain has been one of New England’s most reliable offensive players in 2021. White was actually the Patriots' leading pass catcher in Week 2, receiving six passes on six targets for 45 yards. He also ran five times for 20 yards and a touchdown. Most importantly, White had become a favorite target of quarterback Mac Jones. His dual-threat capabilities will be hard to replicate. However, it should be noted Mack is quite efficient when it comes to earning the first down. Mack has 150 rushing first downs to his career credits, along with 16 first-down pass receptions.
With Sony Michel now in Los Angeles, the Pats employ Damien Harris, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden as veteran options. Rookie Rhamondre Stevenson has had his issues with ball control, leading to his ‘healthy scratch’ status for the past two games. With White apparently set to miss significant time, it not only hastens Stevenson’s timetable for development, but also puts additional pressure on the Pats runners to produce in an offense that needs as many effective options as possible. Marlon Mack has both the skill and experience to nicely fit that description. Whether the possibility becomes a reality will be decided in the coming days.
The Patriots are preparing to welcome the defending Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to New England, as prodigal sons Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski make their return to Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Pats will take on the Bucs from Gillette Stadium at 8:20pm ET on Sunday, Oct. 3.