They don?t have the flashy feature back that fans crave, but head coach Bill Belichick has preferred to utilize a stable of backs. It might not be a headline-grabbing strategy, but each running back has said it's kept them fresher later in the season, and the Patriots aren?t as handcuffed when they lose a back to injury.
This year, the competition for a job might be a little more intense, though. Let's take a closer look at New England's running backs.
Running Backs on Roster: Thomas Clayton, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Chris Taylor, Fred Taylor
Available Roster Spots: Most likely four, maybe five
Key Statistic: Last season, the Patriots ranked 12th in the NFL with 1,921 rushing yards and sixth with 19 rushing touchdowns.
Position Battle to Watch: With so many other positional battles on the roster, it might not be worthwhile to keep the same five running backs for a second consecutive season. Faulk is a lock to remain on the roster, and Morris also seems to be a favorite of Belichick's. Therefore, it's conceivable that Green-Ellis, Maroney and Fred Taylor are fighting for two spots.
Hot Topic: Maroney had another up-and-down season in 2009. He had a six-game stretch when he rushed for 420 yards and eight touchdowns, but he eventually succumbed to a fumbling epidemic that led to his benching. It was well-known how much time Maroney and Belichick spent together in the film room last year, which might have frustrated Belichick even more when Maroney's struggles snowballed. If Maroney doesn?t show some real improvement in training camp, it's possible this could be his last with New England.
NESN.com will be breaking down the Patriots by position.
Tuesday, July 20: Quarterbacks
Thursday, July 22: Wide Receivers