By: Russ Goldman
There has been speculation recently in the newspapers, and on the talk shows regarding the future of Patriots running back Laurence Maroney. The Pats tailback has barely played in the pre-season, and didn’t even get a snap during New England’s pre-season loss to the Rams Thursday night. However, I think too much is being read into his lack of playing time thus far.
The Patriots know what they have in Laurence Maroney. I think he is the same back that came into the league when New England drafted him in 2006 out of Minnesota. He teases you with his potential of breaking a big run, yet he also frustrates you with not finding the holes to run through.
I think many fans, including myself, thought he would be more like the Vikings’ Adrian Petereson. There were high expectations given to Maroney, and I think many fans are just frustrated that his potential has not become a reality. He is a decent back that still averages 4.2 yards per carry for his career, which when you compare this statistic with other former Patriots running backs, you might be shocked at the reality. His career average per carry is actually right there with these running backs.
It may be a little early to give up on Patriots runningback Laurence Maroney. (PHOTO: Icon/SMI)
Antowain Smith was a good solid running back with the Patriots. He was an important part of the 2001 and 2003 Super Bowl championship teams, and his career average per carry was 3.9 yards.
One would believe that a guy like Curtis Martin, who is a potential Hall of Famer, must have a higher average than Laurence Maroney? Yet Martin’s career average per carry was just 4 yards.
Corey Dillon was also a great back during New England’s 2004 Super Bowl championship run, and had an incredible season that year with the Patriots. His career average per carry was 4.3 yards.
When you think about it for all of his faults, Maroney is not a terrible running back. I think many fans and media members clearly believed he was going to be an elite back, and unless he proves he can finally be productive on a consistant basis he’s not likely to be considered as one of the better running backs in the game. Despite that he still has his moments, and the Patriots need production from him this season.
I believe in the eye test. When I watch him run he can irritate me as a fan. He tries too much to hit the home run instead of plowing forward for 4 yards. As frustrating as it may be he still gets his yards, and I think he runs hard. I also don’t think he is soft. I just think he is injury prone, and that upsets fans.
In regards to the Patriots, I think they know what they have in Maroney, and they might want to take a look at their other running backs. Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor were both injured a great deal last season. Before they make a decision coach Belichick might want to see what they have left, and despite his performance against New Orleans two weeks ago BenJarvus Green-Ellis is still an unknown quantity. He still needs more carries against first string players in order to prove he belongs.
It’s also worth noting that the Patriots have been cautious with players in the past regarding injuries in the pre-season. Since Maroney has been injury prone, it’s possible the Pats could be saving him like they have done with other players. Randy Moss in his first year with the Pats did not play a down in the pre-season. Deion Branch also had a year where he sat out until the regular season. Tom Brady in 2008 was coming back from an injury, and the Patriots were cautious with him as well.
In the end only head coach Bill Belichick knows why Maroney hasn’t seen the field very much through these first three games. The good news for the running back was that Belichick gave him an endorsement on Friday where he said that Maroney “absolutely” can contribute this season. I believe that, and I would be shocked if he did not make the team.
So for now I think before we decide to completely give up on him, I think we may want to wait and see if he finally gets the chance to prove us wrong. Also keep in mind that Maroney is in the final year of his contract, and those players do have a tendency to perform well when they’re playing for a new deal, so hopefully with plenty to prove this will finally be the year he becomes a productive player in New England’s offense.