There were probably many fans who were surprised by the Laurence Maroney trade yesterday, but looking at the move it doesn’t necessarily come as a complete shock.
The former first round draft pick has struggled with injuries the last couple of seasons, having never had a year where he played an entire season, nor has he ever finished a season with 1,000 yards. Last year he rushed for 757-yards on 194 attempts (3.9 avg), but between the fumbling issues he had and his inconsistant play, along with the fact he’s been battling injuries all preseason, it left too many question marks heading into this year.
To make matters worse Maroney has more or less gotten lost in a runningback group that currently has the likes of Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk as the experienced veterans of the bunch, along with 3rd year back BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Morris and Taylor both carried the ball well during the preseason, with both averaging nearly 4-yards per carry. Taylor had some success in the team’s win over the Bengals, carrying the ball 14-times for 71-yards and ran hard, and appears that he could be poised for a good season.
While some will argue that Maroney also ran fairly well in what little we saw of him in the preseason, the problem is that he’s more or less an odd man out in a group that already has experience. It also appears that Bill Belichick is committing to developing BenJarvus Green-Ellis, as he spelled Taylor and Faulk during the Bengals game, carrying 5-times for 22 yards.
Taking a further look at Maroney the last couple of years, his style of play has changed, and it doesn’t currently fit what they’re doing here at this point – at least for this season. He doesn’t hit the hole as hard as he did his rookie year, and continues to hesitate before picking where he’s going to go and committing himself to it. As most fans are aware, that’s been a problem that has plagued him for a long time. New England has long been in need of a north-south type of guy who hits the hole hard and can drag some people and muscle out some extra yards. That’s where Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris come in, although the biggest question mark will be can they stay healthy this season. Then if they need some speed and a guy to catch the ball out of the backfield, that’s where Faulk has always excelled.
Where we saw glimpses of how Maroney may contribute out in Denver, is that he’s very good catching the ball in open space and making guys miss and then gaining positive yards, which when we have seen him do it he’s been successful. Unfortunately, considering how effective that Faulk has been in that role, Belichick’s not about to change what isn’t broken.
After all, having Faulk in the backfield creates a threat where defenses don’t necessarily know what to expect. They may run a draw, they may do a delayed handoff, or they might send him out in the flat on a third and short to try and pick up a first down. Team’s really don’t know what he’s going to do when he’s out there, and that element of surprise is one of the things that has always made them successful.
It’s simple, Denver had a need, and the Patriots had a player who with so many question marks no longer fit into their long-term plans. Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels knows Maroney, and most reports out in Denver feel he wants to go in a different direction in the running game. McDaniels reportedly made the move after Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars where he felt that they “left a lot of yards on the field“, and didn’t perform like he had hoped they would. According to the Denver Post the plan appears to be within a week or two for the Broncos to have a tailback rotation of Knowshon Moreno and Maroney.
Hopefully a change of scenery does the 25-year old some good. Sometimes things work out, and sometimes they don’t. We’ve spent the last couple of years talking about Maroney’s potential while continuing to hope he’d finally break out and become the guy that we always saw glimpses of.
But you can only wait so long for that to happen, and unfortunately it appears that Belichick decided that he wasn’t going to wait any longer.