Everyone deserves a second chance. And, if things can break right, former UConn Husky running back Donald Brown may be in a position to earn an opportunity for one of the best teams in the NFL.
Brown signed a one-year deal with New England, ending his short stint as a free agent. The Patriots will be the third team that Donald will play for, having previously spent time with Indianapolis and San Diego. Brown's final year as a Colt, 2012, was his strongest, he racked up 537 yards through the ground, 214 yards through the air, and scored eight total touchdowns.
He parlayed that performance into a contract with the Chargers, where he never quite found his stride and was forced to rotate with the likes of Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon. His 2015 was especially disappointing, as he only managed to see action in nine games, gaining 317 yards and a touchdown on the season. Brown's offseason began with his status uncertain.
However, with New England, Donald may have found the ideal team to properly utilize his talents. The Patriots value versatile players and they could certainly use some help in the offensive backfield.
Over the past few seasons, New England has carried four running backs at any given time, each of whom fulfills a specific role. The team uses a bell-cow, an every-down power back, a pass catching back, a jack of all trades back, and one extra.
Normally, that extra spot is allocated to another receiving back. This is certainly the case in 2016, as the incumbent pass-catching back, Dion Lewis, is injury prone and spent half of this past season on injured reserve. James White fulfilled Lewis' role admirably while he was gone, so both of them should be certainties to make the roster.
Brown's best opportunity to make the team is as the jack-of-all-trades back, although Brandon Bolden has held down the spot for the past four seasons. Bolden is not a dynamic runner, but he provides special teams versatility and is a sound pass blocker. Brown is athletically superior to Bolden, but he will need to spend a hefty amount of time with the playbook to gain the incumbent's familiarity with New England's system. Brown also has more limited special teams experience than Bolden, which could hurt his chances.
There is an outside chance for Brown to make the Patriots as an every down back. LeGarrette Blount is not a bad player, but he is fairly inconsequential from a cap perspective. New England even eschewed re-signing him in 2014, only bringing him back after the Steelers cut him. Blount also has injury issues, so his spot may be up for grabs. While Joey Iosefa got a look against the Titans in 2015, he is not experienced, which gives Brown an opportunity.
However, the Patriots may look to address this position via the draft; they have been sniffing around many power runners in the scouting process. Indiana's Jordan Howard seems like a particularly viable candidate, as the Patriots really like his versatility and footwork.
Overall, Donald Brown has a shot to make this team either as a jack-of-all trades back or the every down back. His best chance is probably to steal Brandon Bolden's spot. However, to do that, he will need to go back to his time in Storrs and remember the fundamentals that Randy Edsall taught him as a punt protector and pass blocker. If he can internalize his inner Anthony Sherman, he may make the 53 man roster for New England by preseason's end.