Bill Sikes/Associated Press
New England Patriots running backs Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead are reportedly expected to miss Saturday’s AFC Divisional Round playoff game against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium due to knee injuries.
Adam Schefter of ESPN provided the status updates.
Gillislee, 27, was signed by the Patriots this offseason to help fill LeGarrette Blount’s role as the early-down workhorse and between-the-tackles bruiser for the Patriots offense. While Blount signed in Philadelphia, Gillislee joined the Pats after rushing for 577 yards and eight touchdowns with the Buffalo Bills in the 2016 season.
This year, he rushed for 383 yards and five scores in nine contests as he failed to carve out a consistent niche in the Pats’ rushing attack.
Meanwhile, Burkhead reached a deal with the Patriots in March after four years with the Cincinnati Bengals. He tallied 264 rushing yards and 254 receiving yards with eight total touchdowns during the regular season.
The Patriots have relied on a running-back-by-committee strategy, using Gillislee and Burkhead often on the early downs to grind out tough yards and James White and Dion Lewis in the third down or scatback roles, where they make their greatest impact in the pass game.
That depth leaves the Patriots particularly equipped to deal with injuries to their running backs. Brandon Bolden should see the biggest uptick in playing time on the early downs.