Guess who had 38 carries for 199 yards and 4 touchdowns this weekend? It wasn’t Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Demarco Murray, Matt Forte or Arian Foster. It was Jonas Gray! If you have no idea who Jonas Gray is, don’t feel bad. The 5’ 9”, 230 pound bowling ball had more carries, yards, and touchdowns last night then he had over the course of his entire career.
Gray was a 4-star recruit coming out of high school and decided to take his talents to South Bend and play for the Fighting Irish. In 4 years at Notre Dame, Gray tallied 1,205 total yards and 12 touchdowns. He spent the majority of his time in college as a backup until his senior year where he split carries with Cierre Wood. Gray was having a breakout senior year until he tore his ACL in the Irish’s 11th game, ending his collegiate career. Prior to the injury, he was averaging 6.9 yards per tote. Despite the great numbers, the injury to his knee lowered his draft stock exponentially. Gray was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Miami Dolphins and spent the year on the PUP list while rehabbing the injury. Following a year of rehab, Gray was cut by Miami in August of 2013 and then signed with the Baltimore Ravens’ practice squad two days later. After spending the 2013 season with the Ravens, Gray was signed to a future contract with the Patriots as they prepared for a playoff run. Entering 2014, Gray was a part of a very busy backfield in New England, consisting of Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Brandon Bolden and James White. Once again, Gray was cut, but then signed back onto New England’s practice squad.
Gray was finally given his opportunity when Stevan Ridley went down with a torn ACL in week 6. Following the injury to Ridley, he was activated to the Pats 53-man roster and saw his first NFL action against the Jets when he had 3 carries for 12 yards. Gray’s role continued to grow in the next 2 weeks as he was handed the ball 29 times for 119 yards. Heading into the bye, Gray had established himself as the Patriots’ top rushing threat while splitting time with excellent pass-catching back Shane Vereen.
Now that you know who Jonas Gray is, let me tell you why his performance wasn’t as surprising as it seems. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get him into my Boom or Bust column, which really took a beating this week, but I was able to get him into one of my lineups as a late substitution for Larry Fitzgerald. Let’s go back to January 11th, 2014 when the Colts and the Patriots faced off in the 2nd round of the playoffs. New England went with the game plan of pounding the ball with Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount, which lead to a 23 point victory. The stat line for the two backs read like this: 38 carries for 218 yards and 6 touchdowns. Looks familiar, doesn’t it? We all know that Bill Belichick is a hard coach to predict week to week but historically he uses the same game plan against the same opponent if he had success in the previous meeting. I can’t say I saw this big of a game out of Jonas Gray, but history was definitely on his side to at least contribute in some capacity.
Moving forward, Gray is going to be a very popular waiver wire add, but don’t forget Belichick’s game-plans are hard to predict. There is no question that Gray is the lead back for the Patriots rushing attack with Vereen serving as the back in passing situations. However, the Pats have the Lions, Bills, Dolphins, and Jets left on their schedule, all of whom have a defense ranked in the top ten against the run. Knowing this, the schedule may dictate a more heavy use of Vereen.
No matter what happens moving forward with Jonas Gray’s career, his performance last night was a great accumulation of hard work and perseverance in an NFL season that has been clouded by negative off-field happenings. Seeing a guy make the most of his opportunities after he could have decided to end his football career multiple times will make you feel good no matter which team you root for.
Stories like Gray’s remind us why we love the NFL so much.
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/dmvid3
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