Roles have been clarified in New England, but buyer beware. The exit of
Corey Dillon has cleared the way for Laurence Maroney, but the second-year back
is recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. Behind Maroney are Sammy
Morris, the capable former Dolphin, and skilled receiver Kevin Faulk, a
favorite of coach Bill Belichick's. Who really knows which one Belichick will
call on from game to game.
MARONEY, 65%; MORRIS, 20%; FAULK, 10%; HEATH EVANS, 5%
Tatum Bell, acquired from the Broncos in a trade, will be the main guy, but
this backfield became complicated with the arrival of veteran T.J. Duckett, who
outweighs Bell by 41 pounds and will get the call near the end zone. Then
there's Kevin Jones, last year's starter, who, to muddy the situation further,
is recovering from foot surgery and may or may not be ready when the season
BELL, 60%; JONES, 25%; DUCKETT, 15%
At first glance it looks as if Travis Henry is set to become the sort of
stalwart back that Denver hasn't had since 2003--he's a straight-ahead runner
who can excel in the team's zone-blocking scheme. Ah, but here's the rub: Mike
Bell, who took only 37% of the Broncos' handoffs last season but accounted for
80% of their backs' rushing TDs. And in camp Cecil Sapp has been working some
as the No. 2 back.
HENRY, 80%; BELL, 10%; SAPP, 10%
The good news is that Cadillac Williams is clearly the main back, despite his
drop-off in production. Michael Pittman will remain in his reserve role, and
B.J. Askew will get only occasional goal line carries. The problem is that
Tampa simply doesn't commit to the ground game, making Williams a risky play.
Last year he had fewer than 20 carries in 10 of his 14 starts.
WILLIAMS, 75%; PITTMAN, 20%, ASKEW 5%
Coach Joe Gibbs wants to lean heavily on Clinton Portis. But Portis (left), who
missed eight games last season with a separated shoulder and a broken hand, is
now coping with knee tendinitis and it's hard to believe that he'll be ready
for that kind of pounding. Ladell Betts, who was so good in relief toward the
end of 2006 and gained 1,154 yards last season, will continue to get carries,
and fullback Mike Sellers will be used for short yardage.
PORTIS, 70%; BETTS, 25%; SELLERS, 5%