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The Tale of Laurence Ma-Phoney

I know it’s early but with the news of Maroney being placed on IR I decided to write my column early this week.

“….With the 21st pick in the 2006 NFL Draft….the New England Patriots select..Laurence Maroney, running back from Minnesota!”

And so it goes. Maroney became just the second running back taken in the first round by the Patriots since 1991 (the other being Robert Edwards and we all know what happened there). He left Minnesota after his junior year where he rushed for more than 1,000 in each of his seasons as a Gopher. He came to New England to supplement aging running back Corey Dillon and eventually take over the reins as the Patriots premiere running back. With the news Monday that he will be placed on injured reserve, one has to wonder if Maroney will ever have the durability to become a No. 1 tailback in the NFL.

And so it goes. His rookie year offered nothing but optimism as he teamed up with Dillon to create a formidable two headed monster – just as he did at Minnesota with a certain Marion Barber III. After week 4 of that year where the rook ran for 125 yards and 2 TDs on just 15 carries (yours truly was in attendance for that one), the full fledged love affair with our deadlocked runner was on. Maroney would hit the rookie wall as the season went on and he finished with 745 yards and six TDs (along with 22 catches for 194 yards) , a very good season for a rookie getting part time work. Maroney would get hurt near the end of the season though and played in just 14 games, which until at least 2009 will be the most games he’s played in a season.

And so it goes. Last year we all know how little a factor Maroney was in the regular season – and hell, we didn’t need him to be. But a disturbing pattern began to emerge in the form of his dancing style..err running style. You’ve seen it, he gets the ball and sidesteps before hitting the hole and eventually it turns into many two yard gains. There is no question the man has pure speed, agility and athleticism when he hits the hole hard, but that just doesn’t happen. Coming into the 2007 Maroney – who was the unequivocal starter – missed three full games to injury and only started six. He ran for a modest 835 yards and six touchdowns, but caught only four balls all season. Yes, in the playoffs he became more effective, running for 280 yards and three TDs in the Pats’ run. Still, some of us wondered if Maroney could stretch that effort and durability into a full season of pounding.

And so it goes. Maroney started three games this season, rushing for 93 yards on 28 carries (that’s a 3.3 yards per carry average folks) and did not have a catch out of the backfield. The lingering injury issue has kept Maroney on the sideline for much of the year and now he’s on injured reserve. Of course with the Patriots’ style for injury disclosure we do not know the full extent of the injury, but we do know what we saw from Maroney pre-injury; a running back full of talent (and confidence I might add) but not much football IQ or durability to run out, take the rock 25 times, gain you 100 yards and keep possession of the ball. He’s turned into a flash in the pan runner who makes one spectacular play every couple of weeks that keeps you on the edge of your seat when he gets the ball. However almost every time that has happened in the last two seasons you see the twist more than the ‘truck stick’, the samba more than the stiff arm, and him breaking down instead of breaking tackles. Say what you want about some of the other running backs on the board when Maroney was taken (DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai, LenDale White, Maurice Jones-Drew) but either way you look at it, we were sold on some phony goods and he hasn’t lived up to expectations.

And so it goes…..

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