So yesterday, I posted my preview for quarterbacks. Interestingly, Patriots.com published their quarterbacks preview the next day. So in an effort to stay ahead of them, I’m posting my running backs preview a day early.
It’s hard to make a great judgement of Maroney at this point in his career. He’s been inconsistent at times, he’s had injury problems, etc. If you watched footage of him from when he was healthy, I’d tell you he was a superstar in the making. He has unmatched initial burst, great lateral and vertical speed, and this ability to slide out of tackles, with a frame to put on even more muscle. His hands and pass protection are also improving. In training camp, it will be interesting to see if Maroney is used more in the passing game, as he showed flashes of improvement throughout last year, especially in the playoffs. Year 3 will be a big year for Maroney… anyone else thinking breakout?
Sammy Morris is certainly the wildcard at this position. The first half of last year, he looked REALLY GOOD. His speed was fine, but he really showed great patience and power. The question with Morris is health. Is he 100% recovered from the chest injury? If he is, the Patriots could have the perfect compliment to Maroney.
Come playoffs, Kevin Faulk WILL be there. He will. He’s there every year. Whether he’s backing up Maroney or taking most of the 3rd and long reps, he will get his playing time… he’ll find a way onto the field. However, he is 32 now, and you have to wonder when age will catch up with him.
BenJarvus has good size, strength, acceleration, and playing speed. At 5’11”, 220 lbs, he has the potential to develop into Maroney’s counterpart in the backfield, he’s that underrated. Training camp, however, will dictacte Green-Ellis’ chance with the Pats, he could go from making the roster, spending the season on the practice squad, or even being cut.
Heath Evans will more-than-likely make the team, and will get his playing time here and there. Evans in the HB-FB hybrid. You won’t see him lead blocking too often, but he will get in there sometimes, and get a third and short or fourth and short carry, from either position.
The emergence of Kyle Eckel last season was a great story. Unfortunately, the story may come to an end this training camp, unless the Patriots elect to keep an extra back. Eckel is a lot like Evans in terms of what he can do on the field, although he is a little less of a blocker and a little more of a runner. Eckel will have to have a huge training camp to stick with the team.
The running back position certainly has some questions. Will Maroney be healthy and consistent? Will Sammy Morris be ready? How long can Kevin Faulk keep it up? However, overall, the position is quite solid. During camp, Morris and Faulk will be battling for playing time, while Green-Ellis and Eckel will be fighting to keep a job. However, I would look for the Patriots to bring in another body, maybe a Samkon Gado or a Kevin Jones, and that would certainly make things more interesting.
Position Grade: B+