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Post mini-camp position breakdown: Running backs

We continue to look at the Patriots position-by-position now that mini-camp is over. Today we focus on Corey Dillon, Laurence Maroney and the rest of the running backs.



]()Corey Dillon- The Patriots were decimated by injuries at the running back position in 2005. Dillon hurt his ankle early in the year and it hindered him for the rest of the season. Dillon was never really himself as he only managed 733 yards on the ground, although he did get into the end zone 12 times. Now that he's healthy again, Dillon should be ready to regain some of his old form this year but he will turn 32 in October. Keeping one eye on the future, the Patriots selectedLaurence Maroney** in the first round of the NFL draft. Dillon has taken a beating over the years because of his punishing running style, so the younger Maroney should help keep the veteran fresh as the season moves forward. Dillon didn't look like he was ready to relinquish his starting job any time soon at mini-camp, as he showed with his fiery attitude towards the media. It's probably unrealistic to expect him to repeat his 1,600- yard season from two years ago but if both Dillon and Maroney can combine for that kind of production, it should be a successful year on offense for the Patriots.

Laurence Maroney – The speedy Maroney will be a nice complement to the punishing Dillon. At 215 pounds, Maroney is a pretty big guy himself but he has the breakaway speed to score from anywhere on the field that Dillon no longer posses. During mini-camp, Maroney caught the ball very well and showcased his acceleration once he turned upfield. If Maroney were a car, he would go from 0-60 mph in about two seconds. He will begin the year spelling Dillon but the really exciting thing about this kid is he gives the Patriots something they haven't had in an awfully long time: a home run hitter in the backfield. Not only will Maroney be a nice change-of-pace back when Dillon's healthy, he also gives the Patriots a legitimate backup should the veteran get injured and that's something the team lacked last year. If Maroney plays up to his potential, he should have an outstanding NFL career.

Kevin Faulk – Faulk may be the least talked about important player in the NFL. ESPN will show the 54-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Deion Branch but they don't show the reception on third-and-12 by Faulk that kept the drive alive and allowed the touchdown to happen. Faulk is just that kind of player. When Brady gets in trouble – especially on third down – he always looks for his security blanket out of the backfield. Faulk looked phenomenal during mini-camp. He's in tremendous shape and looked cat-quick coming out of his cuts. No matter how many players are ahead of him on the depth chart, Faulk adds an element to the game that most running backs don't have the ability to do. He's one of the best receiving backs in the NFL and those don't grow on trees. If anyone ever wants to know just how valuable Faulk is to the Patriots offense, just ask Brady. Now that David Givens is in Tennessee, expect Faulk to pick up some of the slack as a receiver.

Patrick Pass – Pass is kind of like the poor man's Faulk. He does a lot of different things for the Patriots, he just doesn't do them as well as Faulk does. Pass filled in admirably for an injured Dillon last year before he was hurt himself but he isn't a feature back that can carry the load over a long period of time. Plus, he's always hurt. It's hard to make a large contribution if you are rarely on the field. Pass is a good special teams player and a nice versatile back to have on the team but he has to show that he can stay healthy if he wants to earn a roster spot. After already missing mini-camp, Pass better be ready to go in another month because it's going to be hard to impress the coaching staff while standing on the sidelines. Right now, Pass is still the favorite to land the fourth – and probably final – roster spot at running back but he'll still have to play well in training camp to secure a job.

Heath Evans – If someone is going to beat out Pass for a roster spot, it will most likely be Evans. The big bruising fullback isn't a great blocker but he's probably more effective in that capacity than Pass, although Pass is more valuable on special teams. Evans showed last year with two solid outings against the Dolphins and Saints that he can do some damage running the ball as well but with Maroney in the mix and Faulk healthy again, neither Pass nor Evans is going to be carrying the ball much this season. It's probably going to come down to special teams and versatility and that's where Pass has the advantage over Evans. However, Evans has a ton of heart and a great work ethic, so if Pass has trouble staying healthy during training camp, Evans could steal away that last roster spot.

Patrick Cobbs – Cobbs was productive in college at North Texas and he showed some quick feet during mini-camp but his chances of making the final 53-man roster this year are slim. However, if Cobbs continues to impress throughout training camp, he's a likely candidate to land on the Patriots practice squad this season.

Earl Charles – Charles was injured over in NFL Europe and didn't participate in the team's June mini-camp. He has virtually no chance of making the final roster and would have to probably beat out Cobbs for a spot on the practice squad. That scenario is also unlikely.

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