Who Will Fill In With Taylor Out?

Fred Taylor is out with an ankle injury. He may -- or may not -- return by the end of the season. Who will fill in while he's out?

RB Fred Taylor, who provided a much-needed spark through the first three games of the season, injured his ankle against the Baltimore Ravens last week. Taylor reportedly underwent surgery this week and could miss the rest of the season.

Taylor's injury is a significant blow to the Patriots and their running game, which had begun to form some sort of an identity after a slow start. Taylor's injury puts more pressure on Laurence Maroney to carry the load.

On Sunday against the Broncos, the running duties will fall to the mix of Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and rookie BenJarvus Green-Ellis.

When asked who might be active or inactive on Sunday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would only confirm that Taylor would be inactive and Green-Ellis was a possibility to be activated.

The shift of running back duties isn't new for Belichick who has gone through the process again.

"We have confidence in all our backs," Belichick said. "We have four other backs on the roster, so how all that will work we'll have to see how it all materializes. As we all know, that could change during the game anyway just like it did last week. We have to be ready to adjust to it, but we have confidence in everybody."

If Green-Ellis does get the call, his head coach has confidence in him based upon the second-year runner's previous production.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

"BenJarvus has been productive whenever he's played for us: preseason, last year - he had a big game against Buffalo. He's a solid guy. He can catch, can run, can block," Belichick admitted.

Whether Belichick would turn to Green-Ellis over Maroney -- who has struggled this season -- remains to be seen. Maroney has 20 carries for 72 yards on the season. Last week, he managed just 6 yards on 7 attempts and was roundly booed by the home crowd at Gillette Stadium.

Maroney understands his opportunities may be limited if he doesn't get rolling. He also understands that getting booed by the home crowd isn't a good sign. But he's not letting that get his spirits down

"It's never one of those things where I think the fans dislike me or don't want me to be a running back here no more,'' Maroney told the Boston Globe. "I look at it as they want me to do good and they expect more from me"

Whether it's Morris, Maroney or Green-Ellis, Belichick has confidence in all his backs. Perhaps the extra work Green-Ellis has done will be enough.

"He's done a good job from the day he got here last year, undrafted," Belichick said. "He was impressive in the spring, had a good training camp, was on the practice squad.

Belichck understand that Green-Ellis can fill in if Maroney Falters.

" We moved him up after we put Laurence [Maroney] on injured reserve last year about this time - fifth, sixth game in the year - I think that's about when Benny came up," the coach said.

But Belichick holds out hope that Taylor will return by the end of the season.

Still, Taylor hopes to return by the end of the season

"It's disappointing when any player is injured. That's what they live for," said Belichick. "I think obviously if he wasn't going to come back this season, then we would place him on injured reserve at some point. He's not there now, so that wouldn't be the expectation."

Taylor agrees with the coach. He thinks he'll be back.

"I'll know more once I meet again with the doctor," Taylor told The Times-Union. "I will bounce back stronger. I know it. I've prayed on it."

In the mean time, expect Sammy Morris to carry the ball more. Morris converted crucial first downs against the Ravens, including one fourth down and short play.

Morris was the team's leading rusher in 2008. He gained 727 yards on 156 carries (4.7 avg.) and 7 TDs. This year he has 41 yards on 13 carries and 1 TD.

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