Running Backs in Focus

Derek Havens
September 15, 2010 at 10:57am ET

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In light of the Laurence Maroney trade, I figured now would be a good a time too bring the running back position into focus.

Maroney, a 2006 first round draft choice, was traded along with a 2011 sixth round pick today to the Denver Broncos for a fourth rounder in 2011. After everything that's transpired with him over the past year, I believe a fresh start was needed for both Maroney and the Patriots. He never really matched the expectations he brought with him from the University of Minnesota.  He was strongly criticized about his inability to “hit the hole” and could not seem to get rid of the injury bug during his four years here in New England. Despite Maroney’s career 4.2 YPC (Yards Per Carry) average, the majority of fans seem to be especially critical, I am one of them.

His career YPC average is misleading. The first two years of his career he had averages of 4.3 and 4.5. These last two years, Maroney has averaged fewer than 4 YPC each year at 3.3 and 3.9. Putting that aside, I am not going to say he has a fumbling problem as many critics will say. He did put it on the turf 4 times last year, but previous to that, he had fumbled once in his whole career - his rookie year.

Overall, he has frustrated many fans over the course of his four-year career and I believe the team made a good choice to go in another direction. With this trade, the Patriots seem ready to turnover the position much like they did with tight ends this past off-season.

Considering how valuable he is, New England will likely keep re-signing Kevin Faulk until he's ready to retire. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
All current running backs on the Patriots roster have expiring contracts at the end of the season. I would expect them too bring in or retain a veteran running back, and also draft one or two young players to create that roster turnover. I would not be surprised to see Fred Taylor back after the season, if he can stay healthy and have a productive season this year.As for Kevin Faulk, I think he will continue to sign one-year deals with the club until he decides to retire.

Personally, I have been hoping for a new running back regime for a few years. Maroney never seemed to impress me and I am still mad they chose him over one of my favorite running backs DeAngelo Williams of the Carolina Panthers. Hopefully, the Patriots can us one of their first four picks in the 2011 draft too select a young stud for this offense to use. A dynamic, home-run-hitting running back would do wonders for not only the offense but also Tom Brady (keep an eye on Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech and Mark Ingram of Alabama). I am convinced that as Tom Brady gets older, a solid running back will take some of the pressure off of him. This also allows the team to add a new dimension to their overall game plan while having the ability to close out games.

With the four running backs currently left on the roster, Fred Taylor is 34, Kevin Faulk is 34, Sammy Morris is 33, and Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis is 25. While age might be a factor for 3 of 4 for these running backs, lack of experience is the story for Green-Ellis. If this unit, most importantly Fred Taylor, can stay healthy, they should have no problem supplying a consistent run game.

Depth could be an issue at times during the year, which happens to be the only issue I have getting rid of Maroney at this time. If Fred Taylor can consistently give a performance much like he did against the Bengals, the Patriots potent offense should stay well balanced. There is always a chance the team acquires another player to help for the future. Certainly an intriguing position to monitor throughout the year.