"You are the dancing queen, young and sweet only seventeen.
Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tambourine." (ABBA- Dancing Queen)
This pretty much sums up how New England Patriots fans felt about former first-round pick, Laurence Maroney. And Pats fans were singing, they were so happy, when it was announced Maroney was traded to the Denver Broncos on Tuesday.
Maroney was sent to Denver along with a sixth-round pick, in return for a fourth-round pick in the upcoming draft. New England had finally seen enough of the "dancing queen" and decided to end their relationship now, one week into the 2010 season. The 25 year old Maroney had played four seasons in New England and never turned into the feature back they wanted him to be. Maroney never surpassed 200 carries in a season, and failed the eclipse the century mark once (his best season was for 835 yards). While Maroney showed some flashes of brilliance during his time in the Patriots backfield, he never earned himself a full time starting job. And while the '09 season set career highs for Maroney in touchdowns and carries (9 touchdowns on 194 carries), he also set a career high in fumbles and had his lowest yards per carry in a full season (3.9). So with the support of their fans, the Patriots traded Maroney off, leaving the starting role securely in Fred Taylor's hands. But is this a good thing for the Patriots running back committee?
As much as fans hate to admit it, trading Maroney definitely makes the Patriots less deep at the running back position. Maroney served as a fresh set of legs in the aging Patriots backfield. Fred Taylor is now leading the run game, and he's entering his 13th season in the league. At 34, Taylor's best years are definitely behind him. Taylor missed 11 games last year with an injury, and hasn't carried the ball more than 150 times since '07. The Patriots would need a miracle for Taylor not to miss time in the 2010 season.
Running behind Taylor is 33 year old Sammy Morris, and 34 year old Kevin Faulk. Seeing a trend here? Morris saw only 73 carries all of last season. And in the Patriots season opener, a game that Laurence Maroney didn't carry the rock once, Morris saw just one hand off for 2 yards. Meanwhile Faulk's role relies heavily on third down situations and in the passing game. Meaning, if Fred Taylor misses time, the Pats don't have anyone else to hand the ball to, that is unless you count the Law Firm, BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Green-Ellis is in his third year in the league, and should certainly see and expanded role with the departure of Maroney. He saw his most carries in '08 (74) and scored 5 touchdowns that season, showing he has potential. However, he hasn't seen the end zone again since week 12 of that same season. Still BJGE looks like he's going to see more playing time in the Patriots offense, and they could end up relying heavily on him by the end of the season.
Of course the Patriots always have the option of bringing another back in to ad some depth to their backfield. Free agency doesn't present much though, at best offering veteran Willie Parker, who was dropped by the Redskins, and Warrick Dunn. Still the Patriots could make a trade for some added depth. A player like Peyton Hillis from the Cleveland Browns could be the running back they need. Hillis is 24 and has had some time starting in Denver and is currently one running back in a packed Cleveland backfield. At 6-2, 250 pounds and a nose for the end zone, Hillis is the type of player Belichick loves to run.
But we can't forget that New England has two first-round picks coming up in the 2011 draft, making it more than likely the Patriots will roll with the committee of running backs they've got, and try again for the feature back they've been waiting for in next year's draft.