On Saturday May 2nd, 2009, Laurence Maroney and his mother, Terri Terrell, served as honorary chairs for “Boston March for Babies.”
Answering questions at the charity walk, Maroney claimed to have a clean bill of health from the shoulder injury which ended his season in 2008 after three games. Patriot fans rejoice! But doubts remain.
Maroney came to New England three years ago with high expectations. He was the 21st pick in the 2006 draft out of Minnesota. Then-coach of the Denver Broncos, Mike Shanahan, claimed Maroney was the steal of the first round and predicted that he would soon become one of the most dominant backs in the NFL. On paper, Maroney seemed like the prototypical versatile back with a great combination of speed and power.
However, with injuries and a large stable of veteran backs, Maroney has almost become a forgotten man on the Patriots roster. Questions about his durability and toughness have surrounded his name the last few years.
Members of the media criticized Maroney last season for his tentativeness in rushing the ball, as he seemed almost unwilling to drop his shoulder. Little did we all know that the tough-as-nails Maroney was playing with a fractured shoulder.
In 2008, the New England Patriots rushed for a combined 2,278 yards, and 257 in a single game, the highest for the franchise since 1985. Sammy Morris, Lamont Jordan, Kevin Faulk, and even BenJarvus Green-Ellis were able to contribute to the Patriots’ rushing offense with Maroney on the shelf.
When healthy, inconsistency has been an issue for Maroney. When he has not been plagued by injuries, he has shown flashes of greatness, tallying up consecutive 100-yard rushing games in the 2007 playoffs. He has broken blocks, made impossible cuts, and displayed that great stiff-arm which he showcased in college.
So, 2009 is a make-or-break year for Maroney. The signing of Fred Taylor to a two-year deal likely would not have happened if the Patriots felt that they had stability in their backfield. If Maroney can prove himself through workouts and training camp that he still deserves the No. 1 spot in the backfield, he will benefit from having the veteran in the backfield to help carry the load.
Maroney has proved he can handle sharing the backfield load as he did at the University of Minnesota with Dallas Cowboys back Marion Barber. Kevin Faulk is a glue guy for third down situations, and the team will benefit with downhill runners like Taylor and Morris handling the brunt of the load.
Maroney can be, and should be, the X-factor in the stable of backs. The fact that the Patriots have so many quality backs should take some of the load off of Maroney. This should, in turn, help to keep him healthy down the stretch where he will undoubtedly be called on.
If Maroney can anchor a running game for the Patriots, and the passing game with Brady returns to be one of the premier in the league, assuming a surgically repaired knee for No. 12 holds up, the Patriots offense will be almost impossible to stop.
But the question remains—what Maroney will show up opening day?
Patriots Nation has faith in him, but it is up to him to validate their support.