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Player in Focus: Sammy Morris

In today’s Boston Herald there’s an article about Patriots free agent signee, running back Sammy Morris. In the first of five player profiles during the pre-season, here’s an in-depth analysis of Morris’ impact on the 2007 Patriots.

Patriots Running Back Sammy Morris. (Photo Courtesy of the Boston Globe)
Patriots Running Back Sammy Morris. (Photo Courtesy of the Boston Herald)

For the past three seasons the Patriots began their campaigns with a proven runner behind Tom Brady. Acquired in a trade from Cincinnati in 2004, Corey Dillon found new life away from the Bengals, rushing for more than 1,600 yards in the 2004 season, ending with a Super Bowl XXXIX win over Philadelphia. In the two seasons following, Dillon, now 32, began to show his age, suffering minor, nagging injuries which kept his production way down (1,545 yards in ’05 and ’06 combined).

Dillon was granted his release from the Patriots on March 2, 2007, which left a big hole in the Patriots running attack. While rookie running back Laurence Maroney had a solid debut campaign (745 yards, 7 TDs) and had all but solidified his spot in the starting role, most NFL pundits agree that a two headed monster at halfback best suits championship quality teams. That’s where Sammy Morris comes in.

Morris, 30, has endured tenures in Buffalo and Miami before joining the Patriots on a four year, $7 million contract in March. What Morris brings to the Patriots is a pounder in the middle. Maroney may possess some inside toughness and he’s tough to knock off his feet, but he relies mostly on his speed bursts to the hole and his agility. With Morris, the Patriots now have a Dillon-like back around the goal line, someone who will sacrifice his body just to smell the end zone paint.

As displayed in the first pre-season game against Tampa Bay, Morris is not a guy who will run the ball 20 times a week and bust out for 100 yard games. What he will do – ala former Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis and Giants RB Brandon Jacobs – is take the ball, tuck it in his stomach, and plow through the line. As stated in the article in the Globe, Morris credits much of his inside running ability to the fullback Heath Evans and the push of the offensive line, yet Morris himself deserves much of the credit.

His touchdown against the Bucs may not have counted for anything in the long run, but seeing Morris handed the ball and pounding through the line twice inside the 10 displays the inside, short yardage running power the Patriots now have in Sammy Morris. He can fill the void left by Dillon and give the Patriots a one-two punch, something much desired due to the nature of Maroney’s surgically repaired shoulder.

2007 Prediction:

Morris will catch on to the running scheme very quickly, and with an ever-improving offensive line and a solid fullback blocker in Heath Evans, 3rd down and short conversions will be a decisive statistic which the Patriots will thrive in. Morris won’t rack up many yards, but his touchdown total and his ability to keep potential scoring drives alive will prove invaluable to the Patriots playoff push.

2007 stats: 114 carries, 415 yards, 5 TDs

Check back in a few days when we take a look at new linebacker Adalius Thomas.

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