In my first article at Bleacher Report, I wrote about the Patriots' depth at the running back position. I was excited to see if Tom Brady and Randy Moss could replicate their 2007 success, but even more excited to see the running back battle shake itself out in training camp.
When I said that the Patriots were "loaded" at the running back position, I was referring to the presence of Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and LaMont Jordan. Each of these players can (and has) contributed to the Patriots' success this year. Except for Maroney—the one that they need the most from.
When I wrote that first article, some members commented that beyond Maroney, no one else was capable of contributing to this offense. Comments like these make me wonder who really watches football games and who does not. I'm sure some of these people selected Maroney early in their fantasy drafts and feel forced to defend him as everyone else on the depth chart passes him by.
Look, I'm not saying Maroney is a bad running back. He has shown in the past that he can break a tackle or two, and run well in the open field. It's just that as of late, and even going back to last year, he has had a hard time finding the open field.
This year Maroney has an inexplicable 93 yards from scrimmage (total!) coming on 28 carries, for an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Morris' numbers are pretty comparable, although he has 143 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. LaMont Jordan has 106 total yards and that is coming on just 24 carries. Kevin Faulk does most of his damage on third down, and has two touchdowns.
The biggest knock on Maroney has always been the fact that he doesn't run hard once he hits the line of scrimmage. He seems to take the ball from the quarterback, hop step to the line, and then get swallowed by the other team's D-line. Morris, Jordan, and other NFL backs hit the hole hard, and if there is no hole they put their head down and scrap for every inch they can get.
This sense of urgency is missing in Maroney. It's not like the offensive line doesn't block for him, he just seems to have limited field vision. After Tom Brady's devastating knee injury, everyone knew that the Patriots would have to take advantage of their depth at running back in order to keep the clock moving and the other team's offense off the field.
Sunday's game versus the 49ers was a perfect example of a game plan working to perfection, as the Patriots (Jordan early, Morris late) ran the ball as effectively as I have seen in the past few years from this team. Where was Maroney? Watching on the sidelines as his supposed "backups" were marching the Patriots down the field.
When he was on the field, he ran the ball 10 times for 26 yards, with a five-yard run being his longest of the day. He didn't play in the loss to Miami, where they could have used him to move the clock.
His lack of production on Sunday was no big deal for the Patriots, as they controlled the clock and moved the ball effectively on the ground. He was forced to watch most of the game from the sideline.
If Maroney's injury-riddled career cannot correct itself, it may soon be time to say goodbye to the former University of Minnesota star. Like it or not, this team needs him to perform at a level that we have not seen yet.
In today's NFL it is not out of the realm of possibility for a starter to have 1,000 yards rushing each season, but until Morris and Jordan slow down, I don't expect to see Maroney getting much more than 10 to 15 carries a game. Unless the Patriots give him more carries to inspire him to run harder, of course.
The patience of Patriot Nation is running out, and unless Maroney can play with a sense of urgency, it will be hard to win back the trust of the Patriots' front office.
Good thing the Patriots have depth, right? Damn I'm good.