Is Taylor's injury a concern in New England?
After the reports broke today that New England running back Fred Taylor will need ankle surgery—and miss some significant time—it led me to wonder how much the Patriots lose without Taylor.
Sure, Taylor has been hot this season thus far for the Pats, and with a stable of running backs on the roster, he has clearly become the jewel of Tom Brady’s backfield. But, he isn’t irreplaceable. That is not how this team is set up from a personnel standpoint.
Here is what the Pats’ running backs are doing so far this season with their number of carries and number of rushing yards…
Fred Taylor: 45-201 yards
Laurence Maroney: 27-78 yards
Kevin Faulk: 16-62 yards
Sammy Morris: 13-41 yards
Clearly, they have plenty of backs and plenty of carries to go around, but what has made New England competitive over the seasons is their ability to beat you with different game plans. They can come out in tank (2 TE, 2 RB, 1 WR), they can utilize three-wide-receiver sets and they can go empty (usually a combo of 4 WR, I TE in New England) up and down the field on opposing defenses.
But, as we have seen so far this season, the deep ball has been ineffective, and only just last week did Brady and WR Randy Moss hook up for their first TD pass of the season. Because of the vertical game being a little stagnant, Taylor has handled most of the workload. He has shown that he is reliable, and that he still has some juice left in his veteran legs.
However, New England has never been the type of franchise under Belichick to lean on just one running back in the game plan. My guess is that Sammy Morris will see an increased workload in this system, along with Maroney, and that Faulk will continue to be Faulk—a back that is used in a wide variety of ways and one of Belichick's favorites. They also have BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has produced for the team in the past.
Don’t think that this is the type of injury that will derail this New England offense, because they are too resourceful when it comes to preparing for games. I liked the production of Fred Taylor and thought that his hot start could lead to him becoming what is the closest thing to a feature back under Belichick. But now, the Pats will just go back to what they know—and find a new hot hand in the backfield.
Sure, someone will have to step up and become more reliable, and someone will have to take on a bigger workload, but that is part of being a backup, and that is why collective backfields in the NFL last over the course of a 16-game season—as you always need fresh legs.
The bottom line is that New England continues to prepare better than most teams when it comes to game planning and allowing their players to make plays.
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