Future Focus: Running backs

Second in a series of positional "look-aheads" for the Patriots:

Running back: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Thomas Clayton

Stat check: Green-Ellis played 41 percent of the offensive snaps in 2010, followed by Woodhead (39 percent), Sammy Morris (12 percent), Fred Taylor (6 percent) and Kevin Faulk (5 percent).

First instinct: The Patriots had to be thrilled with the production they received from Green-Ellis (first 1,000-yard back since Corey Dillon in 2004) and Woodhead. The running game averaged 4.3 yards per carry, the second-best total in Bill Belichick’s tenure as coach.

Storyline not to be overlooked: Is Kevin Faulk’s terrific 12-year career with the team over? Faulk is a free agent and coming off surgery to repair his ACL. With Woodhead playing a similar role, it’s hard to imagine the Patriots keeping both on the roster.

Future: Green-Ellis will either be an exclusive rights free agent or restricted free agent depending on the rules of the new collective bargaining agreement, which makes it a near certainty he will be back. Woodhead is signed through 2012. Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and Fred Taylor are all free agents.

Final thought: The Patriots figure to draft a running back, or sign one in free agency, as this position is short on numbers when projecting the 53-man roster. Green-Ellis and Woodhead were a solid 1-2 punch, so any addition is to complement them, not replace them.

Your thoughts: What do you think the Patriots should do at running back this offseason? Share your opinions in the comments section of this blog entry.