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Who Stays and Who goes? - New England Patriots Running Backs

During the dulls, I'll take a swag at who will make the final roster without the benefit of seeing most of these guys with pads on.  Next up running backs.

At the end of last year we carried 5 RB's in our stable: Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and  BenJarvus Green-Ellis (Law Firm), with Morris and BJGE taking turns with Connolly at full back.

This year the Voltron five are back along with Thomas Clayton, and Chris Taylor (who ended last season on injured reserve). 

The only sure thing in my mind is that Faulk will be on the roster.  Offensively he is on the field for more snaps than any of the others.  His 5.4 yards per attempt was a full yard more than the closest back, and he accounted for 15% of all carries.  His real value is in blitz pickup, and as a receiving outlet for Brady, though.  He is a backfield mismatch as a receiver, and almost a sure thing on third downs.

I was hoping Pat Paschall would make the practice squad, but he was cut right after I started this piece.

Thomas Clayton was drafted by the 49ers in 2007, spent all of 2007 and most of 2008 on the practice squad, and was injured during the preseason last year.  With Gore leading that squad, he might be a capable back that got pushed down the depth chart.  I'm just considering him a camp body.

Chris Taylor was signed by the Texans as an UFA, and saw time as both a running back and a special teamer, though he was injured in 2007 as well as last year.  Questionable durability for a young guy.  He averaged 2.7 yards per carry the last season (2008) he touched the ball, but averaged 4.4 in 2006.

We know LoMo, and one thing with him is certain, you never know who he will be from season to season.  He started off the season with his DDR routines, switched to dropping the shoulders and hitting guys, then ended by dropping the ball.  He's a hard worker, and will probably be first in line to carry the ball, but what he does with it is anyone's guess.  He had the lowest YPA at 3.9 of any of our backs last year, but most of that was in obvious running situations in the early quarters against a fresh defense.  LoMo shouldered 46% of the burden last year.

Fred Taylor was going to be a change of pace back for us, punishing defenses late in the game.  With his injury, he slid more toward the Fragile Freddy moniker of the past.  Taylor had a 4.3 yard average and accounted for 15% of all carries.

Sammy Morris, alternated between fullback and tailback, and even spread out wide a time or two as the cupboard was bare.  That's pretty good versatiliy, but we just picked up that same versatility in a guy named Aaron Hernandez.  If we're going to carry three Tight-Ends, a cut has to come somewhere, and I pulling it from our backup fullback.  That may not be Morris though, because his 4.4 yards per carry is higher than Taylor's and he handled 2% more of the load.

Law Firm ran pretty well in 2008 against poor run defenses.  In 2009, he had limited carries 6% of the total, and pulled some of the fullback duties.  He had a decent average of 4.4 yards on his scant carries which often came in garbage time.  He also spent time in a number of special teams formations which gives him a slight edge of some of the older backs.

I'm a big fan of the RB stable, because of how many knees you have to lose to stop the run.  These guys have been perpetually beat up.  We carried 5 backs last year, but I feel that will drop to 4, since the fullback duties will likely alternate between Hernandez who has more of the size, and Connolly or another lineman in short yardage power situations.  My guess after the jump.

We don't have any of our 2009 corps signed beyond 2010, so it's likely the Pats are going shopping next year.  Any hope LoMo has for a contract extension depends on this year, and it's a great year for him.  With so many receiving weapons, an opponent would be stupid to keep 7 or more in the box.  That means LoMo's home run ability may be demonstrated a little more like we saw in 2007 on occasion.

Faulk is on a one year rental and will stay a Pat on a year by year basis until he can't go anymore.  He'll retire a Patriot whether he makes the decision on his own or it is more forced like Troy Brown.

Likewise, Morris is cheap to keep, fairly flexible and productive, so he'll be available to the Pats as long as they want him.

Law Firm might be attractive to either Denver or Kansas City, but list probably stops there. 

This is probably Fred Taylor's last stop if his next season isn't impressive.

The easy conventional wisdom list is this:

1. Maroney - young, fast, and was pretty durable last year.

2. Faulk - 3rd down specialist and blitz blocker.

3. Fred Taylor - The wily veteran.

4. BenJarvis Green-Ellis - The special teamer who can also run the ball.

I could see that happening with Morris hitting the streets, but I actually think Morris has more upside right now than Fred Taylor.  If you can even use the word upside on guys that are this old.  I don't see any of the younger guys really cracking the squad.

My final list:

1. Maroney - young, fast, and was pretty durable last year.

2. Faulk - 3rd down specialist and blitz blocker.

3. Sammy Morris - The wily veteran, who can fill in at fullback or play spread.

4. BenJarvus Green-Ellis - The special teamer who can also run the ball.