What Does Jeff Demps Signing Mean for New England Patriots Backfield, Offense?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 17, 2012

Jan 2, 2012; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps (28) runs the ball past Ohio State Buckeyes linebacker Etienne Sabino (6) during the first quarter of the 2012 Gator Bowl at EverBank Field.  Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE
Melina Vastola-US PRESSWIRE

On the heels of a silver-medal finish in the men's 4x100-meter relay at the 2012 Olympics, Jeff Demps' stock was higher than it may have ever been after his collegiate career at Florida. 

Now, multiple reports (first from Fox 13 Tampa Bay, then confirmed by NFL.com) indicate that the Olympic silver medalist will join the Patriots.

There's always a lot of speculation as to what would happen if an Olympic track star were to take his talents to the football field. The usual subject of that speculation is Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. 

Now, we'll get to find out exactly what an Olympic athlete can bring to a football team. Here's a sneak peek.


Special Teams Value

The Patriots have lacked a decent return game for quite some time. In fact, they have gotten progressively worse over the years, having ranked fourth in 2007 and slipping to the 29th ranking in 2011.

They have rotated several players in and out of the mix as kick returners in practice, but as of yet, no one has emerged to provide an answer to one of the few question marks on the roster.

Demps could give them that answer. He was a "special-teams standout" according to his scouting report on ProFootballWeekly.com. He only returned 21 kicks at Florida but averaged a gaudy 28.8 yards per return and took one of his 10 returns for a touchdown as a senior.


Track Stars Don't Always Translate to the Football Field, but Demps Will

Plenty of track stars have entered the NFL due to blazing speed and left the NFL in a blaze of (un)glory. That will happen when a player's athletic skills don't translate to the football field.

Unlike other track stars, though, Demps has a track record in football. Head coach Bill Belichick has been looking for more big-play ability out of his backfield and hopes to harness Demps' world-class speed on the track to produce big plays on the football field.

The knee-jerk reaction is to compare any track star to Hall of Fame wide receiver Bob Hayes, an Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter dash. Just like Hayes, Demps was a very good football player and an elite track star. We know that his speed translates to the field because we have seen it firsthand.

And in case you haven't, or if you've already forgotten, here's a highlight reel to refresh your memory.


Josh McDaniels' Bubble Screens on Steroids

The Patriots will likely incorporate the screen game into their offense much more with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels back in the fold. For an aspect of the offense that's been missing so long, it looks like the screen game could get a shot of adrenaline if Demps' scouting reports are any indication.

"Only needs a crack, gains the edge and outruns angles in the open field," reads his ProFootballWeekly.com scouting report. "Has enough shiftiness to sidestep the first tackler. Cuts at high speed and turns on the afterburners."

"At his best pressing the edge and playing in space," reads his scouting report on National Football Post. "Is a homerun threat every time he touches the football. Exhibits impressive balance laterally and routinely outpaces angles at the second level. Has elite cutting ability even at full speed. ... Is comfortable in the screen game and handling the football while running the option."

Those are some rave reviews—and if you don't believe the scouting reports, there's always the highlight reel above.

Or you could watch another highlight reel right here.


Will He Make the Final Roster?

Well, he won't make it through the waivers to the practice squad, so it's roster-or-nothing for Demps and the Patriots.

But between Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden, it was unclear whether the Patriots would keep all four headed into the season. With five talented running backs that have a shot at making the roster (sorry, Eric Kettani), someone's going to miss out.

Demps has a lot of catching up to do, though; the Patriots are already three weeks into training camp and have already installed most of the offense. 

He may be ultra-talented, but as mentioned above, the Patriots will only carry so many running backs.

Woodhead's experience in the offense gives him a leg up on the competition. Unless Ridley's knee injury is serious, he is a lock to open the season on the 53-man roster; he was having a great preseason and training camp before the injury. Vereen has begun to flash the athleticism that had the Patriots eager to take him in the second round but has to remain consistent. 

The final spot will likely come down to Demps vs. Bolden. While Bolden has looked impressive in camp to date, if Demps is able to quickly pick up enough of the offense to make an impact, Bolden could be in an uphill battle and would be much more likely to land on the practice squad than Demps.


Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.