New England Patriots Are Loaded at Running Back

Ryan BurnsAnalyst IAugust 4, 2008

After last season’s record-breaking air attack, some fans would expect more of the same from Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Although they lost playmaker Donté Stallworth, Tom Brady has no shortage of targets to throw to, including Randy Moss, who set an NFL record for most touchdown receptions in a season. Not to mention the pesky Wes Welker, who is a matchup nightmare for most defenses.

However, the Patriots’ deepest position may in fact be halfback, where they feature third-year starter Laurence Maroney, third-down specialist Kevin Faulk, and Sammy Morris, who had a very impressive beginning to the 2007 season before injuring himself in Week Six.

The Patriots then added former Raider LaMont Jordan to boost their already diverse running game. This provides some interesting questions as the Patriots continue their training camp.

Obviously, the addition of Jordan makes it seem as if Sammy Morris’ sternum injury is not completely healed. He's an insurance policy of sorts.  If Morris does come back strong in the preseason, Bill Belichick and the Patriots' coaching staff will face a tough decision, as there will be not enough running plays to warrant keeping four talented halfbacks on the roster, especially with pass-happy Josh McDaniels' style of offense.

Although Maroney has had some durability issues, the chance of the Pats rolling anyone else out there as a starter on opening day is zero. Kevin Faulk has been a key part of the Patriots’ dynasty and has made more than enough big plays to not worry about his spot.

Unless Belichick and his staff really want four running backs on the roster vying for playing time, it seems as if the logical choice this year is between LaMont Jordan and Sammy Morris.

Jordan played in 12 games last year for the Raiders, averaging 3.8-yards per carry and scoring three touchdowns. The eight-year veteran has reached the 1,000-yard benchmark only once in his career and that was back in 2005, his first year as a Raider.

Since then, his touches have decreased dramatically, as he was called upon just 144 times last year, compared to 272 times in 2005. However, Jordan has proven himself, catching passes out of the backfield, which could bring him in on some third-down situations in place of Kevin Faulk, giving defenses new looks and bringing diversity and creativity to the New England offense.

Sammy Morris on the other hand, is listed at fullback, but provided the Pats with some much-needed punch when Maroney was sputtering at the beginning of last season. The running game was never the same after Morris was lost during Week Six, as Maroney was injured on and off again.

He had two 100-yard games last season and ran for an impressive 4.5-yards per carry last season. The Patriots would obviously like to see what a healthy Sammy Morris can do over the course of an entire season, and his presence helps out on the goal line, in order to give the Patriots added versatility.  

Whether or not the Patriots keep all four running backs on the roster come Labor Day, their running backs seem more than ready to contribute to last seasons’ most prolific offense. It should be interesting to watch this battle unfold in training camp, where Belichick and Co. anxiously await the start of the season.