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NFL context: Patriots & running backs

6/28/2010

Second in an ongoing series looking at each position on the Patriots roster and how it is viewed when compared to the rest of the NFL:

Starter: Kevin Faulk

Backups: Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Pat Paschall, Chris Taylor, Thomas Clayton

NFL chatter: Over the last four drafts, the Patriots have selected just one running back (Justise Hairston, 6th round, 2007), which is why the team has one of the oldest running back groups in the NFL. As noted by ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli, of the 13 running backs over 30 years old in the NFL, the Patriots have three of them (Faulk, Morris, Taylor). Faulk is still viewed as a difference-maker, as evidenced by the interest from other clubs in free agency. He remains a tough matchup for defenses out of the three-receiver set, is a top pass-protector, and has played more snaps than any Patriots running back in each of the last three seasons.

Overall depth chart: The Patriots kept five running backs on the roster in 2009 and the set-up looks like it will be committee-based again this year, with Faulk the top "passing" back and Maroney, Morris and Taylor leading the "running" game. The drop-off from the top of the depth chart to the bottom is not as steep as many teams, but the top of the depth chart doesn't have a player that defenses must fear.

Final analysis: A position defined by its depth and experience, but missing that consistent breakaway, home-run threat. Bottom third of the NFL.

Other positions: Quarterbacks