Fans have been seeing a lot less of running back Mike Gillislee in the last few weeks.
The man we saw taking the majority of snaps in the early games of the regular season has been inactive for three straight weeks. All three have been healthy scratches from the active list. Gillislee joins the inactive list with Marcus Cannon, David Andrews, and Chris Hogan, who were ruled out on Friday. Cornerback Eric Rowe will miss his seventh consecutive game, and Matthew Slater will miss his second. Martellus Bennett will miss his first game as a Patriot with an ailing shoulder.
— New England Patriots (@Patriots) November 26, 2017
Where Has Mike Been?
Mike Gillislee started his stint with the Patriots with a boom, racking up three touchdowns in the team’s home opener. His rushing numbers have not been nothing too impressive as he has not surpassed 69 yards all season. This was to be expected however since he shares the backfield with Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, and James White. In recent games Lewis has controlled the rushing game while Burkhead has been the recipient of most check-down passes. James White has been a viable backup for either role.
A four halfback committee isn’t necessary to have every game. The Patriots’ offense prepares for one game at a time, and each defense that they face calls for different play-calling. The Lewis-Burkhead duo has been the fit as of late.
With two backs on a hot streak, the question after that is how Gillislee has performed on special teams. He has been in a battle for an active spot on special teams with tight end Jacob Hollister. Who would you rather take: another return man like Gillislee or a big guy to play the front lines like Hollister? The answer for Coach Belichick has been the latter.
The Future for Gillislee
The Patriots’ backfield is composed of guys who have the ability to start any given week. Rex Burkhead has proved his worth as more of a receiving back on passing downs. Dion Lewis has demonstrated in the past and this season that he is a viable runner and returner now that he is healthy. James White is a combination of the two with his versatility being showcased in the playoffs last year. Gillislee is a one-cut back who can make a splash in any team’s running game. The only problem with that is that the Patriots have an abysmal rushing presence. Are they in need of one? With Tom Brady at the helm it isn’t essential.
Mike Gillislee might be in jeopardy of his job with the Patriots. His contract is too much for him to just glide in and out of the inactive list. This doesn’t mean that his playing ability has not been up to the team’s standards. This is more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” type situation. The Patriots have realized they don’t need a workhorse runner like Gillislee every game. Whatever happens there is reason to believe that there will not be bad blood between the Patriots and Gillislee.