Insiders Analysis: Running Backs

PI takes a look at the roster and breaks down each player on a unit-by-unit basis. In this installment, the running back position is the subject. The backfield had always been a question until the arrival of free agent Corey Dillon in 2004. Dillon singlehandedly revitalized the Patriots run game. The question now becomes, who will back him up

Insiders Analysis: Running Backs

Corey Dillon ­ 6’1”, 225 Lbs., 9th Year, Washington
Dillon was arguably the best pickup of the entire 2004 NFL offseason. The Patriots sent one of their two second round picks in the 2004 draft to Cincinnati, who was eager to rid themselves of a player they considered to be a cancer, but who was also one of their all-time great players. Finally with a QB to take the pressure off him, Dillon provided career highs in attempts (345), yards (1,635) and touchdowns (12). He possesses the rare ability to elude defenders and punish them as well. He’s a workhorse, as he’s topped 300 carries in 4 of the last 5 seasons and missed only 7 games in 8 seasons. He seems to get better as the game goes on, tiring out defenders in the 4th quarter. With another year of experience in this offense, it may not be a stretch to say he may have an even better season than last.

Kevin Faulk ­ 5’8”, 202 Lbs., 7th Year, LSU
One player who often gets overlooked by opponents is Faulk. He’s been one of Tom Brady’s more reliable targets over the past few years. He’s everything you can ask for in a third down back, speedy with great hands and the ability to move the chains. Over the last 3 seasons, he has recorded 48 receptions for first downs. He’s also valuable as a change of pace back. The Eagles found out the hard way in Superbowl XXXIX when he had 8 carries for 38 yards, a 4.8 average. Should anything happen to Corey Dillon, Faulk will be first in line to step up and perform.

Cedric Cobbs ­ 6’0”, 225 Lbs., 2nd Year, Arkansas
Cobbs saw limited action in his rookie year. He was given a chance to prove himself, in a 42-15 blowout win vs. Cleveland, however he mustered only 29 yards on 16 carries for a paltry 1.8 average, and coughed up a fumble as well. He played some special teams and made 2 tackles. He will be fighting for a roster spot.

Chad Morton ­ 5’8”, 203 Lbs., 6th Year, USC
Morton was presumably brought in this offseason to strictly be a kick return threat. He has returned 3 kickoffs for touchdowns in his 5 seasons in the league. His career kick return average is 23.9 and his punt return average is 8.9. If he makes the squad, the Patriots will have 3 formidable return specialists along with wide receivers Bethel Johnson and Tim Dwight.

Patrick Pass (FB) ­ 5’10”, 217, 6th Year, Georgia
Pass is a converted halfback, and lacks the size of a typical fullback. Despite his shortcomings, Pass was successful lead blocker for Corey Dillon as last season, and has made himself into a reliable target for Tom Brady. He caught 28 passes for 215 yards (a 7.7 average) including 7 for first downs. He works with the special teams unit, and is a valuable cover man downfield.

Kory Chapman (RB) - 6'1", 202, 2nd Year, Jacksonville State
Chapman has been around the Patriots as a fringe player since they acquired him in September of 2004. Chapman spent a short time with the Baltimore Ravens prior to joining the defending champions. The Patriots allocated Chapman to NFL Europe's Cologne Centurions where he split time with other backs, racking up 718 yards on 126 carries (5.7 avg), with 5 TDs. Chapman is a solid, yet unremarkable back who should fill the role of departed RB Rabih Abdullah. Landing a roster spot is no guarantee, and he may be headed to the practice squad for a second straight season.

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