Why Troy Brown Is a Great Mentor for Patriots' Running Backs
One strange move on the New England Patriots' coaching staff this year was Troy Brown coaching the running backs.
Brown - who played wide receiver for the Patriots from 1993-2007 - has helped coach the team's wide receivers during OTAs and minicamp the past several offseasons. But now he officially joins the staff as a running backs and kick returners coach.
Rex Burkhead knows why.
"Troy's been great to work with," Burkhead said Wednesday during a video conference with the media when asked how Brown helps New England's running back room. "Just his understanding of the game. Of course he played many years here, so he's familiar with the system and how things are run here. I think the biggest thing is technique-wise and route-running, certain things that maybe I've never seen before or looked at it that way, just because I've played running back, and so he sees it from a wide receiver lens and so it kind of translated over to some of our routes and how we run them. He's been great with that and just teach me, James [White] and the other backs certain ways to get to positions out there and really how to use our techniques."
As always, a positional group on Bill Belichick's team is trying to become as versatile as possible.
One issue that the Patriots offense has dealt with over the past two seasons is "showing their cards" before the ball is snapped. By that I mean defenses can better predict what New England will call for a play based on the personnel in the backfield.
Sony Michel - the team's primary running back - has caught 19 passes during his first two seasons in the league. Because of that, teams know that when he's on the field chances are the team will run the football or attempt to do some sort of play-action pass. On the flip side, when James White is on the field chances are that New England is running a pass play. That's why Rex Burkhead - who is the most well-rounded of those three running backs - was more effective at times then Michel last season, because it was more difficult to tell what New England was going to call for a play.
That's where Troy Brown comes in. The hope is that Brown can help improve the pass-catching and route-running ability of the running backs, that way the offense becomes less predictable, more versatile and ultimately more explosive. Brown's presence will greatly benefit Michel and players like Burkhead second-year back Damien Harris and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor. White will also benefit, but he's already one of the best pass-catching backs in the entire league.
To also help combat the lack of versatility in the backfield, the Patriots signed veteran running back Lamar Miller this week, which has been confirmed by his agent, Drew Rosenhaus Thursday. Miller from 2012-18 accumulated 209 receptions. To put that into perspective, Sony Michel - based on his catch total average over his first two seasons - would only accumulate 66.5 receptions over a seven-season span.
The six-time Super Bowl champions are projected to run the football more moving forward. But if their backfield is able to become universally dangerous as pass-catchers as well, that'll be a huge bonus for whichever quarterback is under center for them.
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