A glance at the Patriots' roster reveals several positions which could provide interesting training camp battles.
At outside linebacker, who will fill the spot of the departed Mike Vrabel?
Will special teams ace Pierre Woods finally make his mark on defense? Or will Shawn Crable, who missed his rookie season with an injury, give the Patriots speed off the edge?
How will things shake out in the secondary? And with veteran tight ends Chris Baker and Alex Smith in tow, where will holdovers Ben Watson and David Thomas fit in?
Perhaps the most intriguing battle will be at running back. Despite having a slew of injuries at the position in 2008, New England still ranked sixth in rushing yards. With a solid offensive line and potent passing attack, whichever back gets the majority of the touches should put up some nice numbers in 2009.
But with a crowded backfield, newcomer Fred Taylor joins incumbents Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Laurence Maroney—could it be the oft injured and thus far disappointing Maroney who is the odd man out?
Maroney was a first-round pick out of Minnesota in 2006 and teamed with Corey Dillion to give the Patriots a two-headed rushing monster that season.
Despite showing flashes during the end of 2007, Maroney has largely been a disappointment since being tagged with the lead back role in New England. That culminated in an injury plagued 2008, which saw his season end after just 28 carries and three games.
Taylor, for one, is no stranger to injuries, having carried the "Fragile Freddy" tag throughout his career. The eleven-year veteran could offer invaluable guidance to Maroney.
Two possibilities seem likely for Maroney. One, he learns from the veteran Taylor and uses the competition as motivation to stake claim to the starting job.
Two, he falls out of favor in training camp and goes the route of former Patriot receiver Chad Jackson, who could never harness his talent and was released last summer.
But the indecisive Maroney, who by all accounts is a good guy, needs to cure his injury woes and hit the hole with more authority, as the Patriots have proved they can be decisive when it comes to making tough personal decisions.
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