It seemed, about midway through last season, the coaches had finally instilled a violent, decisive, slashing running style in Maroney, who was like that as a collegian at Minnesota. And as that was taking hold, the drops came. Four of them in a seven-game stretch for a player who had just one fumble in his first 38 games as a pro.
See, it was always something with Maroney. Take care of one thing, and another problem crops up. He runs more aggressively, but can’t hang on to the ball. He needs to be patient, and he runs frantically. He needs to run harder, and he’s too patient.
Whatever it was, it seemed like Maroney was never mentally quite there, and maybe a change of scenery is what he needs to hit the potential he flashed in his first two seasons (1,580 yards, 4.4-yard per-carry average, 12 TDs). There are certainly people in these parts hoping that happens.
So why did the Patriots do it? Why didn’t they just let 2010 play out, with Maroney on the books for a paltry $825,000? It’s a good question, and it’s pretty clear how strongly New England feels about this, considering what’s left at the position and what the Patriots got in return (basically turning a sixth-round pick into a fourth-rounder.)
Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris are 34 and 33 years old, respectively, and the two have collectively missed more games as Patriots (42) than they’ve played in (38). So you figured, even though Maroney had a tendency to get nicked, it would’ve made sense to keep some fresh legs around.
The Patriots did, but those belong to the reliable, but limited, BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
Kevin Faulk plays into the mix, of course, as the team’s best at the position. But he’s much better off as purely a passing-down specialist, meaning having depth is important to keeping him at his best as well.
Green-Ellis does bring more game-day value as a backup than Maroney right now, being a staple on special teams units. And that’s likely why — possibly in combination with a thigh injury — why Maroney sat last week.
Still, would the Patriots feel comfortable with Green-Ellis as the lead back, should Morris and Taylor go down?
You’d have to think they would. Or they have something else up their sleeve.
The bottom line, now, in this whole thing is that as the Patriots try to get more physical offensively in several ways, they decided to cut their losses with a guy who’s their least physical back. Whether they’ll pay for this risk remains to be seen.
But there’s no question there is a serious element of risk to this move.