New England Patriots Sign Jeff Demps, but Will He Play?
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He already has an Olympic medal under his belt, and will now be vying for a Super Bowl title come February. Jeff Demps is officially a New England Patriot. But will he play?
The rich got richer when the Patriots signed Demps to a three-year deal on Friday.
Already stacked with immense talent, the Patriots' offense collected another versatile threat in Demps.
The former Florida Gator and track-and-field athlete was part of the US Men's 4x100-meter relay team that finished second to the Jamaicans at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The move came as a bit of a surprise for Patriot fans.
After the departure of last season's starting running back (BenJarvus Green-Ellis), the offense features a strong core of second year backs: Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley; the longest-tenured halfback and quick-footed Danny Woodhead; and, the largest rookie Brandon Bolden.
The Bucs may be tired of seeing LeGarette Blount in a starting role. They also selected Doug Martin out of Boise State in the most recent NFL draft.
Ultimately, it was the chance at a Super Bowl ring that drew Demps to New England.
So, where will he be utilized in the Patriots potent offense?
He was a running back and return man during his time at Florida where he saw a good amount of success. The same formula will likely be used by the rebounding offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels.
Demps put up solid numbers as a Gator, averaging 6.7 yards per carry in his four years. He accumulated 2,470 rushing yards, and added 23 touchdowns from the backfield.
He also returned 10 kickoffs during his senior year and averaged 25.0 yards per return, including one touchdown: a 99-yard burst against Georgia.
However, one player can't change a team—scratch that, they can. (Rob Gronkowski circa 2011).
Demps won't have the same direct effect Gronk had on the Patriots' offense last season, but he will make an impact of his own and in turn make the players around him better.
Any player that can run a 10.01 100 meter dash in his senior year (and 9.96 during his sophomore and junior years) is born with a gift.
Demps' speed, acceleration, and body control will change the pace from the backfield. At 5'7'' and 175 pounds, Demps is the lightest of the five running backs currently on the roster.
Demps is most dangerous in the open field; so, while most of the draw plays will go to Vereen and Ridley, a good chunk of pitches and tosses may go Demps' way. Once he can get to the outside and cut the corner, opposing defenses better be sure not to allow him access to any turf in front of him because he'll be gone in a flash.
The Patriots' shotgun-heavy offense will likely feature a healthy dose of screen plays this season, with the return of McDaniels.
In this case, Demps could line up behind Tom Brady, then motion to the wing or the slot. All he needs after that is a few solid blocks on his way to the end zone.
Demps participates in his first practice today, and with two preseason games left to play, we should gain some inkling on how McDaniels and Bill Belichick plan to use the speed demon.
Trick plays are also in the offensive arsenal. Reverses and direct snaps to Demps will be a great way to catch opposing defenses while sleeping and get quick yardage. The possibilities are truly endless.
As previously mentioned, Demps will also be used on kick returns: an area the Patriots have struggled with in recent seasons.
Primarily using Woodhead and wide receiver specialist Julian Edelman, the team averaged 21.4 yards on kick off returns in 2011. It was their worst total since 2001.
They averaged 22.0 yards in 2010 with Brandon Tate, 22.7 yards in 2009 with Laurence Maroney, and 25.2 in 2008 with Ellis Hobbs.
With Demps as a serious threat on kick returns (he averaged 28.8 return yards in his college career), it will force most kickers to boot the ball into the end zone for a touchback, and the Patriots will never have to start a drive inside the 20-yard line.
The question is, however: Will Demps play?
According to Brian McIntyre on NFL.com, Demps has been fully guaranteed $200,000 of his $390,000 base salary in addition to an $11,000 signing bonus, which brought the Patriots within $85 of the amount of money allotted to teams to give as signing bonuses to undrafted free agents.
The combined $211,000 is the second highest in guaranteed money for an undrafted free agent in 2012.
Demps has a lot to offer and the Patriots signed him for that exact reason. They'll find a way to fit him in just fine.
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