Patriots RB quick hit

Second in a series of positional reviews from the Patriots’ 2009 season:

Running backs: Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Stat check: Faulk played more than any running back, with a 38-percent playtime clip. That reflects how the Patriots were in passing sets more than traditional run sets. Maroney, at 30 percent playtime, led the team with 757 yards on 194 carries (3.9 avg.) and nine touchdowns. Morris (319 yards), Taylor (269) and Green-Ellis (114) also chipped in, with Morris and Green-Ellis playing fullback at times.

First instinct: Although the Patriots finished the season ranked 12th in rushing yards per game (120.1), the running game seemed like a mixed bag on a week to week basis. At times, it felt like it could have been utilized more.

Storyline not be overlooked: Taylor’s early-season injury. That changed the complexion of the group, and when Morris missed four games with a knee injury, it thrust Maroney into the top spot.

Future: Faulk is a free agent, while Maroney, Morris and Taylor enter the last year of their contracts.

Final thought: The big question is whether the Patriots believe Maroney can be a player – both from a production and mental toughness standpoint -- to build the group around. That will be a key part of the thorough process that Bill Belichick referenced the team will go through. If the answer is no, look for the Patriots to target fresh legs in the draft.