Dillon Not In Their Plans… Yet

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick claimed that the New England Patriots weren't looking for another running back, despite the rumblings that they might be interested in re-signing Corey Dillon. It's not what he said that's important, it's what he didn't say.

When the New England Patriots put running back Sammy Morris on injured reserve (IR), it left a void at the running back position. Although the team promoted fullback Kyle Eckel from the practice squad, they didn't really fill Morris' spot as the power back that can gain the tough yards and give Laurence Maroney a breather. With Morris done for the season and Maroney just getting over his injury concerns, the Patriots may not be done shuffling the lineup at that position, although the team's head coach tried to squash that speculation this week.

Scout.com's Adam Caplan reported Saturday that Corey Dillon's representative spoke with the Patriots about a possible reunion with the team. While no negotiations were in the works, the mere mention of having Dillon as an option generated a loud buzz in Patriot Nation blogosphere.

Today on his weekly radio spot on WEEI radio in Boston, Belichick said that there was no intention to add Dillon to the team.

"I don't think that's really in the plans right now," Belichick said in response to a question about adding Dillon. "We've gone with the four backs."

The four backs Belichick referred to are: Laurence Maroney, Heath Evans, Kevin Faulk and Kyle Eckel.

Belichick noted that the players currently on the roster offered more overall value than a single-purpose player who doesn't participate on special teams..

"One of the things that Kyle and Heath have given us is play on special teams. I think it would be hard to lose their special teams play." Belichick said. "And Laurence has given us good play at the running back position. And Kevin has given us some runs and some third down plays, and he's also a returner for us. So it's hard to fit in another back there that wouldn't be a special teams player. It's hard to see where that role would come."

New England Patriots FB Heath Evans carries against the Atlanta Falcons Aug 11, 2006
(AP Photo/Rob Carr)

Belichick's response raises one key question in particular, why talk to Dillon's representatives at all if there were no interest in adding another back?

For that matter, why talk about the value the four backs have, when the roster consisted of five running backs when Morris was still not on the injured reserve list?

It's not what Belichick said; it's what he didn't say, according to a league insider. He didn't say they wouldn't consider Corey Dillon. He also didn't say Dillon was ruled out if Maroney continues to experience injury issues.

Whether that means that Dillon will be an option or not is still up in the air. From Belichick's comments, a player like Kevan Barlow -- who visited the Patriots two weeks ago -- is a viable option.

Certainly Barlow and Dillon offer more value as pure runners. If Evans can continue his role on special teams, and as an option in the passing or running game, moving Eckel back to the practice squad is a real possibility.

Figuring into the discussion are the PUP players.

The clock is ticking for the Patriots players who are the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list; Chad Jackson, Eddie Jackson and Troy Brown. The decision on whether to activate or place them on injured reserve must be made on both Jacksons this week. Troy Brown only needs to start practicing to be in compliance with league rules, and the team will have three more weeks to come to a decision on his future.

The PUP roster move decisions will likely impact what the Patriots decide to do at running back. Right now, the Patriots do not need another wide receiver, making it a real possibility that either Chad Jackson or Troy Brown or both will be placed on injured reserve.

Eddie Jackson is a new addition to the team, but one who could just see his tenure cut short as the team has its fill of defensive backs on the roster. With the promotion of Raymond Ventrone to the active roster from the practice squad, it's possible the team moves Ventrone back, to make a spot for Jackson.

After the dust settles, unless the team is willing to part with Eckel and/or Ventrone - both real possibilities - it's not looking good for a Dillon reunion. Even if the Patriots are willing to chance the youngsters to the waiver wire, the team still needs to figure out what to do with the three PUP players.

Jon Scott has covered the NFL for over ten years and has followed the New England Patriots for nearly two decades. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Jon can be reached in the Insider Lounge on PatriotsInsider.com


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