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Ten Patriots for 2009: No. 9, RB Laurence Maroney

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Let's face it.  Laurence Maroney has gotten a bad rap during his career at New England.  I would say some of it is deserved.  I have complained often that Maroney "bounces" off of the line when he should be more decisive, similar to Sammy Morris.  However, when he's been asked, he's delivered the goods as he did with four 100+ yard games in the last six of 2007.  All that aside, Maroney is in a fight to hang on to his job as RB workhorse for the New England Patriots.

The unfortunate reality of Laurence's career is that he's struggled to live up to his potential.  A 1,000 yard season, the yardstick all RB's are judged by, has alluded Maroney for his three seasons with the Patriots, but 2007 proved that's not necessarily his fault.  He is regularly compared and contrasted to a member of the same 2006 draft class, the Colts' young buck, Joseph Addai.  Addai handily wins the stats battle with twice as many touchdowns and two out of three 1,000 yard seasons.  Some of that could be more attempts per game for Addai than Maroney (2006: 14.1 vs. 12.5, 2007: 17.4 vs. 14.2) or it could be a lack of confidence in the coaching staff to hand the ball to Maroney, though  2007 was clearly a pass happy Patriots offense and not a knock against Laurence.

2006 - Selected 21st overall in the 2006 draft, Maroney had a good rookie year, racking up six touchdowns and 745 rushing yards.  However, he shined as a kick returner, posting 783 yards and the longest kickoff return average for all NFL players.

2007 - Maroney assumed the starting RB job after the Patriots released then starter, Corey Dillon.  Largely marginilized during the regular season by the pass happy 2007 Patriots offense, Maroney would put up 835 yards in 13 games and an average of 4.5 yards per carry.  He waited and when asked, got it done.  In the last six games of the Patriots' season, including the Super Bowl, Maroney managed four 100+ yard games with two of those games coming against playoff contenders the Jaguars and Chargers.  With a 5.5 yard and 4.9 yard average per carry, Maroney put up 122 yards in each game and a TD in each as well.  When we needed him most, he was there.

2008 - This was a disappointing season for many reasons, but a particularly hard one for Laurence.  He was placed on Injured Reserve on 10/20/08 and finished the season with only 93 yards.  First advertised as a "shoulder injury" it was later found that Maroney had broken a bone in his shoulder.  A mild controversy swirled around the Patriots' injury reporting practices, but was later disproven.  Many questioned Maroney's toughness during his silence, but I don't think they have a leg to stand on given the broken bone revelation.

This is Laurence's job to lose.  He's said he's ready to prove his critics wrong, so I'm hoping for a good year.  I also think Fred Taylor will help Maroney out given he survived some of the same accusations early in his career, too.  My hope is Maroney can come out with a monster season and establish his place as a premiere back worthy of the head coach's trust.  He certainly displayed flashes of excellence in the 2007 postseason.

Why couldn't he do it again?