Patriots looking for LeGarrette Blount's replacement

The New England Patriots overhauled their backfield this offseason, but one lingering question remains: Who will play the LeGarrette Blount big-back role in 2017?

It's a question that Pats running backs coach Ivan Fears is pondering himself.

"Somebody has to play big for us. We have enough guys we know can play finesse football. Somebody has to play power football for us. We have to find out who is going to do that," Fears told ESPN's Mike Reiss on Wednesday.

With Blount defecting to Philadelphia, the Patriots added Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead to a backfield that already contained James White, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and fullbacks James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski.

Fears is open to competition during training camp to see who will get the short-yardage and goal line carries that helped Blount to 18 touchdowns last season.

"I think a lot of those guys are capable of doing that," Fears said. "Freakin' James White ran the power offense when he was at Wisconsin, so what are we talking about it? But he has to do it for us here.

"Not just him. Whether it's Mike, whether it's Rex, or Brandon Bolden, somebody has to step up and be the big back when we need one. And all those roles that come up in the game, we have to find someone to fit those roles. I think we will."

(Sidebar 1: Just reading Fears' comments makes me want to run through a wall for him.)

(Sidebar 2: Can we officially add Freakin' as a prefix to James White's name? Freakin' James White has a beautiful ring to it.)

Most believe Gillislee is in line for the big-back duty, with Freakin' James White and Lewis playing the pass-catching roles, and Burkhead filling a Swiss-army-knife job on offense and special teams. Until the pads come on, however, everything is speculation.

"Yes! Yes! Yes! This is kind of a very exciting moment for us," Fears said. "We're going to be in pads. We're going to be up against people. We're going to see exactly what we got.

"I think a lot of those guys, we think we got something. But you never know until they do it. I can't do it for them. They have to do it."