By Bruce Allen, Patriots Daily Staff
The Patriots did not add to their stable of running backs this offseason, choosing to return with the same crew that took the field in the 2009 season. A very veteran group, health and performance is again a concern at this position.
The enigmatic Maroney enters his fifth NFL season just as much of a mystery and frustration as when he was a rookie, splitting time with Corey Dillon. Is this the season he finally seizes the lead back role and fulfills his potential? He’s got a lot of skeptics to win over, including it seems, the head coach, who is not shy about benching Maroney after a fumble or bad play. At his best, Maroney is a fast, elusive and yet punishing runner. At his worst, he is tepid and indecisive. Entering the final year of his contract, it will be interesting to see if he is motivated this season to finally put it all together. If so, the Patriots could be in good shape here.
Injured much of last season (a recurring theme in his career), Taylor had a few good moments for the Patriots, and apparently showed enough to be brought back for another season. It’s hard to tell how much he has left, but his professionalism and work ethic are qualities that the possesses are perhaps traits that the team wishes would rub off more on Maroney. As his career winds down, hopefully Taylor can have a for more great moments with a team in the hunt.
Throughout his Patriots career, Morris has been a guy who, when healthy has been fun to watch. He runs hard, and has been used as a hybrid-fullback type on occasions. He’s a punishing runner who has also had his share of injuries over the last few seasons. Healthy, he is a valuable weapon to have in the offense.
The Troy Brown of running backs. Faulk is one of the all-time great Patriots. Who would’ve imagined we’d be saying that in 2010 while watching him as a rookie under the Pete Carroll-led 1999 Patriots? Faulk is perhaps the ultimate third-down weapon. He can run it when needed, but his biggest strength is helping on the blitz, and then releasing underneath or heading out on the screen pass. He’s getting up there in age, and will be sorely missed when it comes time to say good-bye. Enjoy watching him while you can.
He’s out lasted all of his namesakes on the Patriots. Ben (Watson) Jarvus Green-Ellis (Hobbs) is entering his third season with the Patriots, and remains someone that a certain segment of fans clamors for, confident he can be the answer to the team’s running attack. As a spot player, he’s fine, a pretty strong North-South runner. Probably not the long term solution.
Taylor spent last season on IR for the Patriots. He’s actually been in the NFL since 2006, and once had 99 yards and a touchdown in an NFL game (for Houston at Cleveland). He’ll get a look in camp, not expected to be a serious candidate to make the final roster, unless there is an injury or he completely wows the coaches.
Signed this offseason after being released by the 49ers, Clayton is another roster longshot. He’s looked good in the preseason in the past for San Francisco, but has been a practice squad or IR guy for his career.
Signed in 2009 as an undrafted free agent, Kettani is currently on the Reserve/Military list.
With the age and health of this group a concern, it’s hard to label this position as a definite strength for the Patriots at this time. Like so many other positions, the talent and potential are there, but unless Maroney can leap up and grab the lead back role and remain healthy, it’s going to be another year of running back by committee.