One of the biggest debates following the preseason opener against the Ravens, was the situation at running back. With an incredibly strong Lamont Jordan performance, the New England backfield started to look a whole lot more crowded. For those wondering what’s going on, here’s my best attempt at dissecting what looks to be a very competitive backfield:
Lets get this straight: Maroney is safe. Beyond that, any other player could be subject to release or trade.
Starting at the bottom, I think we can assume, although unfortunate, that Kyle Eckel is gone. While he has a great story, his strengths are too parallel to those of Heath Evans. However, Heath Evans does the things Kyle Eckel does even better. They are both hybrid halfback/fullback players who run hard-nosed and can be suspect in the passing game. However, I feel that Heath is both the better runner, receiver, and blocker, so I think he automatically beats out Eckel, barring injury.
Then there’s the rook, BenJarvus Green-Ellis. While I like him alot, with the signing of Jordan, I just don’t see room for him on the active roster. My hope is that we can get him to the practice squad without him being claimed by a team while on waivers. He’s a big kid who’s got great acceleration going through the hole and could develop into something good.
After Green-Ellis comes the top five on the depth chart; Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, Heath Evans, Lamont Jordan. My guess is that Belichick goes with four of those five, leaving one of them on speed-dial barring injury. If this is the case, who would be the odd man out? Maroney isn’t at risk, so lets take him out of the picture, as I stated earlier. That leaves Jordan, Faulk, Evans, and Morris. Morris was very productive last year, but you have to question what kind of conditioning he is after he’s sat out this long with injury (aka can he come back the same player). Faulk is getting older, but is an ultra-reliable as both a receiver and pass blocker, and he can even be a very effective runner in some situations. Evans can play fullback and halfback, and has come to be a good blocker.
This seems like a capable group of backups, all with different strengths and weaknesses. Faulk is the 3rd down back, Sammy Morris is Maroney’s backup (where he gets a lot of carries), and Evans is the short yardage/fullback. Then, enter Lamont Jordan. He is an excellent receiver and can therefore play 3rd down running back. Scratch Kevin Faulk. He has shown that he can handle the bulk of carries any given Sunday, so he could be a great backup for Maroney. Scratch Sammy Morris. He has the body and blocking capabilities to move up and play fullback. Scratch Heath Evans.
So, in the end, I think Jordan will be safe from roster cuts due to his versatility. Evans is more of a true fullback, so my hunch tells me he is safe because the Patriots would probably want to have a player of his type on the roster. That leaves us Morris and Faulk. I’d like to say Faulk would be safe, but don’t forget that Belichick had Morris getting a lot of 3rd down reps when Maroney was healthy last year. Therefore, I can’t say who will get cut. However, in the end, Belichick’s history tells us one of those four will be gone come opening day.