After a disturbing offseason, the New England Patriots have reason to be concerned about their usually consistent offense.
Tom Brady is still under center, and he is perhaps the only reason the fanbase has not been thrown into a tizzy about the upcoming season. Although a recent injury in training camp leaves his status uncertain, the rest of the offense that has made this team successful in the past is gone.
Wes Welker, the team’s most consistent receiver and Brady’s safety blanket, moved west to team up with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. That shocking move started an avalanche of offensive departures.
Aaron Hernandez is in jail.
For the first time in a very long time, the offense is potentially vulnerable and weak.
The reaction of New England's top brass resembled panic, as they responded by ushering in an army of second tier wide receivers.
This includes Danny Amendola—who has an extensive injury history and has yet to start a full season—Donald Jones, who was already released by the team, and Johnathan Haggerty, who is an undrafted free agent.
From the outside looking in, it seemed as though the Patriots were reaching. Patriot Nation was forced to rely on a genius head coach and a quarterback with a golden arm.
After one week of preseason football, the worry has started to subside. Bill Belichick knows what he is doing. He has a plan, and it was on full display in Week 1 of the preseason against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Belichick made a statement in the very first drive of the football game. He called six straight running plays that included a line-busting 62-yard scamper by Stevan Ridley, which ended with a touchdown. His message to the rest of the league was loud and clear.
The offense is not a one-trick pony. The Patriots are more than a pass-happy team. They can run the ball.
This offense can play physical football and dominate the line of scrimmage. They have a talented group of players that everyone outside of the organization has overlooked: the running backs.
These players will allow the Patriots to move the rock on the ground and take pressure off Brady. They will be able to keep defenses guessing on every play.
It all starts with Ridley. The young back that emerged a year ago is back with a vengeance. He is ready to be the main man out of the backfield and take the bulk of the carries. Although it was against a questionable Eagles defense, Ridley proved he is up to the task by amassing 92 yards and one touchdown on just eight carries.
Not sold yet? Need a better indication of how good this unit is?
The performance by Ridley was only the second-best effort of the night.
Newly acquired LeGarrette Blount piled up 101 yards and two scores, highlighted by a 51-yard run. The thunder-and-lightning combination of Ridley and Blount will be a difficult duo for opposing defenses. The running backs will also be a prominent feature in the passing game.
Shane Vereen was on the receiving end of the first Patriots score of the game. He was targeted four times by Brady and will be a deadly threat out of the backfield. After Week 1 of the preseason, it is obvious that the Patriots running backs will have a big impact on the offense.
While many fans and experts were worrying about how the Patriots would recover from all of their offseason losses, Belichick was scheming. He is very aware of the talent that the team has at the running back position, and he is prepared to show the league that this offense will be just as deadly as it has been in the past.
Remember, Patriots fans: In Belichick we trust.
James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org.