Future Focus: Running backs

January, 25, 2011
Second in a series of positional "look-aheads" for the Patriots:

[+] EnlargeWoodhead
John Munson/US PresswireWill Danny Woodhead's presence on the roster mean the end of Kevin Faulk's days as a Patriot?
Running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Thomas Clayton

Stat check: Green-Ellis played 41 percent of the offensive snaps in 2010, followed by Woodhead (39 percent), Sammy Morris (12 percent), Fred Taylor (6 percent) and Kevin Faulk (5 percent).

First instinct: The Patriots had to be thrilled with the production they received from Green-Ellis (first 1,000-yard back since Corey Dillon in 2004) and Woodhead. The running game averaged 4.3 yards per carry, the second-best total in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach.

Storyline not to be overlooked: Is Kevin Faulk’s terrific 12-year career with the team over? Faulk is a free agent and coming off surgery to repair his ACL. With Woodhead playing a similar role, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots keeping both on the roster.

Future: Green-Ellis will either be an exclusive rights free agent or restricted free agent depending on the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, which makes it a near certainty he will be back. Woodhead is signed through 2012. Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor are all free agents.

Final thought: The Patriots figure to draft a running back, or sign one in free agency, as this position is short on numbers when projecting the 53-man roster. Green-Ellis and Woodhead were a solid 1-2 punch, so any addition is to complement them, not replace them.

Your thoughts: What do you think the Patriots should do at running back this offseason? Share your opinions in the comments section of this blog entry.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter



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