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State of the New England Patriots Nation: Running Backs

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Fred Taylor turned 34 on January 27th. Happy birthday to the oldest back in the league!

Kevin Faulk will turn 34 on June 5th- happy early birthday to the second oldest back in the league!

Sammy Morris will become a young 33 on March 23rd- good enough for third oldest back in the league!

Don't like that trend? Neither to do I.

Laurence Maroney is just 25 years old with 1 year left on his contract. BenJarvus Green-Ellis will be 25 as well at the season's start. How does our running back committee look this off-season? What do I think will happen?

Read to find out!

1. Laurence Maroney 5-11, 220 lbs. 25 years of age, 4 year veteran.

Stats:194 attempts for 757 yards- a 3.9 average. 9 TDs, 4 fumbles, 14 receptions for 99 yards.

How he did: I'm one of the people who believe that Maroney had a fumble issue that needs to be looked at this off-season. Looking apart from his fumbles, he ran much harder this year than he had his entire career (which may have led to the fumbles). He was hitting gaps with drive and trucking over some defensive players. However, he had only 1 real "break-away" play the entire season. He seemed to have the ball taken out of his hands every time he appeared to be getting into a groove. I still have hope for Maroney- next year (we always say this about Maroney) will be the most important season of his career.

Where he did well:

  1. He set a personal record for rushing TDs with 9.
  2. He seemed to be running with more purpose than ever before (less dancing)
  3. He caught the ball well when given the opportunity- I'd like to see him have a much larger role in the passing game next season. He caught 14 out of the 15 balls thrown in his direction.
  4. He ran his best going off-tackle (going to the outside), mainly going behind Vollmer. He scored 5 of his 9 TDs going to the outside and had 400 of his yards going to the outside. He forced 13 of his 22 missed tackles going outside. (Outside is when he goes to the outside of his tackles, as opposed to between the tackle and guard or the guard and center). Over half of his overall production came from his going outside.

Where he can improve:

  1. Averaged 2.4 yards after contact. The best backs in the league averaged around 3.0 YAC. That means Maroney isn't breaking tackles like the best and isn't fighting for yardage like the best.
  2. Fumbles. He had 4, which puts him top 10 for fumbling running backs. He needs to get a better hold on the ball when running in piles.
  3. Running up the middle, to the right (where Neal was the blocker), Maroney had all of his fumbles. He's not a strong up-the-gut runner. (However, I'm not sure whether to attribute that to Maroney or Neal- Maroney had no fumbles to the left (behind Mankins))
  4. Get more carries. This lies upon the coaches, but partly upon Maroney for not impressing the coaches enough to warrant more carries. He heats up when he touches the ball more, which isn't happening in this RBC.

What does this mean?: He's never going to be a feature back. He can, and should, be our #1 back for our committee. If we run the ball 25-30 times a game, Maroney should see the ball at least 15-20 times. He should be looked at in the passing game at least 3-4 times a game. You know how the Colts use Addai as a dump pass in the middle? Have Maroney do that. You know how we used Sammy Morris on the sidelines? Maroney. He has so much potential that we need to utilize it more. That said, his best game is between the 20s. We still need a power back who can run through the middle and get that first down on 3rd and short and who can make opposing defenses pay.


2. Kevin Faulk 5-8, 202 lbs. 33 years of age, 11 year veteran.

Stats: 62 attempts for 335 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 2 TDs. 37 receptions for 301 yards and a TD. 0 Fumbles.

How he did: Faulk was always Mr. Reliable. Did everything asked of him and exceeded expectations again. He was actually a strong up the middle runner, averaging over 5.0 yards/carry between ALL linemen. He didn't do well going to the outside.

Where he did well:

  1. He ran strong up the middle, not fumbling, and gaining yardage. Most of his yards weren't in short, obvious running situations, but he still made the most out of his opportunity (hey coaches, see that? Faulk ran well when the defense wasn't expecting it. See what mixing up the playcalling does?)
  2. Caught 77% of the passes in his direction.
  3. Give him the ball 7 times a game- 4 rushing, 3 receiving, and he'd be an almost guaranteed LOCK to gain 60 yards. That's quality production.
  4. He's Kevin Faulk. He was a sideline leader who stepped up and asked players for their best.

Where he can improve:

  1. I don't see any glaring places. He's a huge team player who I hope we bring back for as long as he plays.
  2. Perhaps get younger?

What does this mean?: He's getting long in tooth, but that doesn't really show up on his on-field production. He won't be able to keep this up forever and I think it's time we start grooming a Faulk 2.0. Maroney can be an experiment next year. Hopefully Faulk will be back for another season and we can maximize his skill set for another year.


3. Fred Taylor 6-1, 228 lbs. 34 years of age, 12 year veteran.

Stats: 63 carries, 269 yards, 4 TDs.

How he did: He got injured, but when he had the ball he was dominant. Averages yards/carry, average yards after contact. He averaged around 4.5 yards/carry running everywhere on the line. However, he seems to have lost his big play ability.

Where he did well:

  1. Brought veteran leadership to the team. He has brought in to help mentor Maroney and also help the team. He's done both. I don't think it's a coincidence that Maroney started to run hard with Taylor's arrival.
  2. Whenever he touched the ball, he was good for 4 or so yards.
  3. He added solid depth to the running committee, while healthy.

Where he can improve:

  1. Not get injured.
  2. I don't think he can improve this, but he needs to help with big play production. Not one play over 20 yards this season.

What does this mean?: I think this is a classic case of "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" (even though Mythbusters disproved this!). What we have when we look at Taylor's body of work is what we're going to get. We have a savvy veteran with a now-average skill set. He was consistent which is more than we can say for Sammy Morris.


4. Sammy Morris 6-0, 220 lbs. 32 years of age, 10 year veteran.

Stats: 73 carries, 319 yards, 2 TDs. 19 receptions, 180 yards.

How he did: He had 3 runs of around 20+. If you eliminate them, he went for 74 carries and about 230 yards. That's not impressive. He stepped up in the passing game and performed well there. However, he wasn't so extraordinary that he became a necessity. Once again, he was injured. He has yet to finish a full season as a running back. At his age, that's not a good sign.

Where he did well:

  1. He was second to Faulk in terms of receiving backs- smaller completion percentage than Maroney, but higher Y/C.
  2. He had just as many big plays this season as Maroney, but with fewer carries.
  3. Was our best Yards after Contact runner. He was 3.5 yards after contact, in comparison to Maroney's 2.4 yards after contact. That shows Morris' big play production. I wouldn't hold this stat to much weight, though, since a lot of his YAC was from his one big run.

Where he can improve:

  1. Stay healthy. He hasn't completed a full season. Ever.
  2. He needs to be more consistent. At least Maroney was good for a 4ish average. Morris was all over the board.

What does this mean?: I can see us only bringing Morris back if we have no other options. He's a health liability with very average skills. I'd much rather see a young player put up average numbers than an old one- at least the young one has potential to blossom.


5. BenJarvus Green-Ellis 5-11, 215 lbs. 24 years of age, 2 year veteran.

Stats: 26 carries for 114 yards.

How he did: He did not dazzle us with his opportunities. He dominated the Tennessee game, but my grandma could have gone for 2 Touchdowns in that game. Other than that, he was mediocre. He was the best run blocker on the team, and I expect him to put on weight and take over that role next year. Will he be successful? Who knows.

Where he did well:

  1. He killed Tennessee with big runs and big plays. Very similar to his 2008 couple of weeks, he played extremely well, showing us his potential.
  2. He was usually brought in on clock-killing duty. He did a good job of not coughing up the ball.
  3. He was our best run blocker.

Where he can improve:

  1. I would say N/A since he hasn't really been given the opportunities. When Morris and Taylor were injured, we resorted to Faulk as the #2, instead of BJGE, perhaps he needs to step up and show the coaching staff what he can do to help the run game, instead of "just" blocking.

What does this mean?: BJGE should be brought back for another year. I wouldn't be surprised if he took Morris' spot in the committee rotation. He'll be blocking much more frequently next year and, if he can add the weight, he might allow us to have a real FB. If the weight works, and he can still run hard, perhaps we have our short yardage back already on our roster?


What does this mean for the off season?

With Maroney, Taylor, Faulk (hopefully) and BJGE, I believe that we have another above average committee. I'd like to see Maroney as the 1st and 2nd down back, Taylor as the #2, Faulk as the receiving and 3rd and long back and BJGE as the blocker and short yardage back. I know a lot of people have been asking for us to pick up an RB in the draft. I have been one of them. I still think it's a good idea to draft a back in the 2nd round.

However, after this analysis, I have another idea- do you think we should hold off on drafting an RB for another year? We have two picks, with one of them being Oakland's which is almost sure to be a top 10 pick. We have the possibility of maybe taking Mark Ingram in next year's draft. I know the RB draft this year is much deeper than next, but I think we have more pressing needs than at RB. Everyone knows that we need a DE and an OLB in the draft. We also need a new OT as Matt Light grows older. The 4th pick is up the air as a CB (fingers crossed), WR, RB, TE or even another LB. We could be set next season with our current committee and improve on other positions that are more important to the Patriots team as a whole (we are a passing team, RBs aren't as important).

Who knows what this means. We could still pick up an RB in the 2nd round, or even the middle rounds. I just wouldn't count on it. Belichick has tended to shy away from RBs in the draft. He knows that there are Elite RBs (Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Steven Jackson, etc) and they are in a league of their own. He also knows that the gap between average RB and good RB is very little. He'd rather utilize his draft picks on players where the gap between average and good is of much greater importance.

I say that we'll be fine if we enter next season with this committee. We could be better, but we'll be fine. I just think that getting better in other positions is more important right now than getting better at running back.


Read more: Quarterback Situation and Wide Receiver Situation

Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Focus and


How should we address our Running Back situation?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    Leave it as it is! I like Maroney, Faulk, Taylor, Morris and BJGE.
    (15 votes)
  • 27%
    Tweak it. Maroney, Faulk, Taylor and BJGE would be good.
    (55 votes)
  • 12%
    Find a FA. (Post who!)
    (25 votes)
  • 43%
    Draft an RB. (Post who!)
    (88 votes)
  • 9%
    Trade for an RB. (Post who!)
    (20 votes)
203 votes total Vote Now