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The days of Marion Butts, Curtis Martin, Robert Edwards and Corey Dillon seem to be over in Foxboro. The Patriots’ offensive scheme has not only changed to pass-oriented, but now employs a strategy sweeping the NFL: running back by committee. Coming into this year’s training camp the Patriots possess numerous options in the backfield which will allow an innumerable amount of options during game situations. Here’s a rundown of the current crop of running backs.
2008 stats: 28 carries, 93 yards, 0 TDs
2009 Forecast: Needless to say, this is a make or break year for Maroney. As a first round pick out of the University of Minnesota, Maroney burst onto the scene in his rookie year as a compliment to Corey Dillon and filled Patriots fans’ heads with visions of the next LaDainian Tomlinson. Since then, injury and ineffectiveness have taken it’s toll on Maroney’s future in New England and it now seems he has perhaps one more chance to prove he belongs in the fold. With the addition of a prime-time runner in Fred Taylor, the Patriots now have created enormous competition for a majority of carries and now that Maroney is healthy, he has no more excuses.
Like Chad Jackson before him, Maroney will have no one to blame but himself if he stumbles this pre-season and gets cut. I think we’ll see the Laurence Maroney from his rookie season and as long as he stays healthy he will get the bulk of the carries in the early part of the season. Maroney seems to thrive in a complimentary role – as he did with Marion Barber III at Minnesota – and should benefit from all the options the Patriots have. What’s bothered Patriots fans over the years is his dancing at the line of scrimmage. Though stylish, it gets very old. Maroney needs to hit the hole and get to the outside to be successful. If he does this, he’ll have an important role in the offense.
2009 Projected Stats: 210 carries, 850 yards, 5 rush TDs; 20 rec, 150 yards, 2 TDs
2008 stats: 143 carries, 556 yards, 1 TD; 16 rec, 98 yards, 0 TD (with Jacksonville)
2009 Forecast: Fred Taylor comes over after an incredible run in Jacksonville which saw him rack up more than 11,000 yards and 62 rushing touchdowns over an 11-year career. Injuries have plagued him off and on as he’s not played a full 16 game season since 2003. Coming into camp he has just as much chance as anyone to receive the bulk of the carries in 2009. At 33 years old, he cannot be expected to carry the ball 20-25 times a game but will be a huge asset on short yardage situations and can still break a long run from time to time. He will step in and not only add competition, but provide a stability in the backfield Patriots fans haven’t had for years. Like Maroney, if Taylor stays healthy he will add to what could be a deep, dominant backfield to compliment the passing game.
2009 Projected Stats: 200 carries, 900 yards, 8 TDs; 10 rec, 115 yards, 1 TD
2008 stats: 83 carries, 507 yards, 3 TDs; 58 rec, 486 yards, 3 TDs
2009 Forecast: It simply goes without saying the impact Kevin Faulk has had on the Patriots during his 10 year career. Always a threat through the air out of the backfield, there’s almost no running back in the NFL you’d rather have in a third down situation. His versatility is a testament to the Patriots style and he’s one of the only remaining players who have been in Foxboro since the dynasty began. Though there are more capable running backs in 2009 than ever before, don’t expect his production to drop off. Last year he nearly amassed 1,000 total yards from scrimmage and don’t look for a drop off. Most of the other running backs are threats on the ground, not through the air. Faulk is a key ingredient to offensive success and will again make countless plays which won’t show up on the stat sheet.
2009 Projected stats: 70 carries, 425 yards, 1 TD; 55 rec, 525 yards, 4 TDs
2008 stats: 156 carries, 727 yards, 7 TDs; 17 rec, 161 yards, 0 TDs
2009 Forecast: Sammy Morris has been a delight since joining the Patriots for the 2007 season. Though he’s missed 13 games over the past two seasons he has rushed for more than 4.5 yards a carry and 10 touchdowns in that limited action. He’s a force in short yardage situations and is a asset in blocking. In 2008 he rushed for a career high 727 yards and though his carries may be limited because of Maroney, Taylor and others, he’ll be able to provide a change of pace with tough, inside running. Look for him to compete for carries in the pre-season and could potentially be the starting running back on opening day against one of his former teams, the Buffalo Bills.
2009 Projected stats: 125 carries, 575 yards, 5 TDs; 10 catches, 100 yards, 0 TDs
2008 stats: 74 carries, 275 yards, 5 TDs; 3 rec, 37 yards, 0 TDs
2009 Forecast: Besides having one of the coolest names in all of sports, Green-Ellis is another one of these diamonds in the rough that Bill Belichick seems to find every year. Faced with massive injuries in the backfield, the Patriots turned to Green-Ellis last season and he responded with five touchdowns on just 74 carries in limited action. He scored a TD in four straight games early in the season and rushed for more than 100 yards against the Bills in week 10. He’s only a second year player and could have a future in the NFL, but it seems there are just too many players ahead of him in the pecking order here. Unless he knocks the socks off of the coaching staff or there are major injuries, you may bee Green-Ellis on another team, or riding the pine.
2009 projected stats: (With Patriots) 30 carries, 135 yards, 1 TD; (With another team) 100 carries, 390 yards, 3 TDs
As I said before, the opportunities are endless for the group. It all depends on health and how much the Patriots are willing to run the ball. As we’ll see tomorrow there are plenty of options through the air and carries could be limited. The hope is that Laurence Maroney will step up and earn his first round pick status, with Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris providing a change of pace and allow the Patriots to keep drives alive. This offense should be real fun to watch.