The Patriots haven't had a consistent running game since Corey Dillon retired. But with a passing attack that looks as unstoppable as ever, a strong rushing attack could give the Patriots one of the premier offenses in the NFL.
There are no shortage of potential quality backs on the Patriots roster. Between Laurence Maroney, Fred Taylor, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Chris Taylor, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, coach Bill Belichick has a wealth of options.
But can any of them actually run the ball effectively?
Projected starter Laurence Maroney has severely underachieved since being drafted 21st overall in 2006. But he's finally healthy and is in a contract year, so it's now or never for the former Minnesota running back.
Fred Taylor is also healthy after suffering a season-ending ankle injury last season. He's 34 years old but he still knows how to run and has looked good in the preseason.
Faulk is almost exclusively a third-down back while Morris's role is unknown following an injury plagued 2009-10 campaign. There is probably only one spot available (maybe none) between the veteran Taylor and spirited Green-Ellis, who runs hard but lacks elite athleticism.
The Patriots don't use a feature back, so expect the carries to be fairly evenly split between Maroney, Taylor, and Faulk. The other backs will likely only see limited action and will provide depth in the case of injury.
The Patriots rushed for 1,921 yards in the 2009-10 season, good for 12th in the league. They will need to do a bit better than that if they want to contend for a championship.