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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Fri Apr 16 - 12:00 AM | Sun Apr 18 - 11:59 PM

Position Preview: Running Backs

Don't let all of last year's passing and scoring records fool you. The Patriots offense isn't just a one-trick pony.

There are certainly questions surrounding New England's ground game – namely the health of its two returning ball carriers – but the pieces are in place for Tom Bradyto have more than a complementary element to his game.

Laurence Maroney, the 2006 first-round pick, has alternated flashes of brilliance with periodic nagging injuries that have forced him to the sidelines. But Maroney has been injury-free this offseason and has participated fully in the team's workouts.

This is the healthiest he's been heading into a season since he got to the pros. That should help him pick up where he left off last season, with four 100-yard rushing performances in the team's final six games.

His running mate, Sammy Morris, is also healthy again after missing the bulk of 2007 with a season with a rare clavicle/sternum separation. Prior to that injury, Morris was everything head coach Bill Belichick could have asked for and more.

He finished with 384 yards on 85 carries, matching Maroney's 4.5-yard average, and added three touchdowns. Morris proved to be more than just a backup and contributed in the passing game (six catches, 35 yards) and on special teams.

If he's fully recovered from the rare injury, he should be in line for a similar role in 2008.

Veteran Kevin Faulk, meantime, now in his 10th season in New England, remains a talented pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He should be ready to resume his third-down role and offer a change-of-pace for Brady and the offense. If Faulk shows signs of slowing down, undrafted rookie free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a 5-11, 215-pound back out of Ole Miss, might have the skills to step in.

Fullbacks Heath Evansand Kyle Eckelboth have the skills to be utilized as ball carriers on occasion, too. And since both Evans and Eckel contribute on special teams, there's a better than average chance they'll return to give the Patriots running back corps a familiar look in 2008.

RBs - At a glance

Key additions:
None.

Losses:
None.

Roster:

No. Player (Year)
38 Kyle Eckel (2nd year)
44 Heath Evans (8th year)
33 Kevin Faulk (10th year)
42 BenJarvus Green-Ellis (rookie)
39 Laurence Maroney (3rd year)
34 Sammy Morris (9th year)

Training camp storyline:
Can the 1-2 punch of Maroney and Morris remain healthy for a full season? If so, they're capable of putting up big numbers to help make QB Tom Brady's explosive offense that much more potent.

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