There aren’t many teams in the NFL with a stable of running backs as deep as the Patriots have.

For fantasy owners, that’s an irritation. For offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and running backs coach Ivan Fears, it’s a boon. Presuming, of course, that each back gets the baseline expectations for the position, the specific role he is fulfilling and the importance of being who the offense sees you as being.

Stevan Ridley is subtly unlike Brandon Bolden who isn’t the same as LeGarrette Blount who has nothing in common with Shane Vereen, other than the fact they have “RB” next to their names on the Patriots roster.

On one hand, the varied skills and demands from each player make coaching the position a little more intricate. On the other, it makes it easier to answer the simple question that earns each player more chances: “Did you do your job and produce?”

“Is he productive or not? Did he get it done or did he not get it done?’” Fears asked rhetorically this week when we talked backs and philosophy. “I mean, that’s what everybody looks at. Everybody evaluates us the same way: did we win or did we not? And not so much how you play the game, [but] whether you did [win]. For those guys, it’s pretty much the same. As long as they’re running the play the way we need them to run the play, once that ball is handed to them, it’s up to them. They know what we expect of them, they know the reads that we expect them to go through, but when it all comes down to it, he’s got to make a guy miss, he’s got to find a way to win, he’s got to make a play. And if he’s making plays, you’re going to hand him the ball more. If he’s not making plays, you’re going to hand him the ball less.”

Terry Allen, Kevin Faulk, Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, Lawrence Maroney, Sammy Morris, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ridley have all led the team in single-season rushing during Fears’ tenure with the Patriots. Fears, hired by Pete Carroll in 1999, has been running backs coach for all but Allen and Faulk.