Thursday, July 05, 2007

Laurence Maroney Article

"Threw away all those crazy dreams, I put them all behind."

Hey everyone. Sorry for the lack of entries in the last week. Things have been a little crazy down here in the Queen City. Putting together a futon turned into a never-ending ordeal. I feel bad for my unborn child(ren). If they ever want a bike, or a swing-set, they may have to wait until their pre-teen years for me to finish. To my defense, the instructions were a little vague. Still that doesn't really hide the fact that I'm a complete moron. Also, I finally got a job with Penn Life Insurance, but I don't get to start until I get licensed, which involves a week-long course that runs ten hours each day. School starts Monday, so the vacation is officially coming to a that rivals "The Summer of George" in terms of inactivity. In addition, I landed a gig working for the Panthers in the "Guest Relations" department on game days. Basically, I'm a glorified usher. It's not much, but it is free football...actually I'm getting paid, so that's not so bad. The only drawback is that I have to get Sunday Ticket and record the Pats games, but I was probably going to do that anyway, so it's all good, and the other thing is that I won't be able to tailgate for the Pats preseason game, which sucks, but I will get to see the game, which is likely to include an entire half of the first team offense and defense...good times. In any event, this is an article I just submitted to Patriots Insider. I hope you enjoy, and again, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to check up on the site. I will always appreciate your support.

Feeling Lucky?: Pats Put All Their Chips In The Middle With Maroney

“You are merely a general. I must be a king.” ~Lawrence of Arabia

After years of having anything but a good ground attack, the Patriots have enjoyed a good amount of success in the last few years. Antowain Smith turned out to be a pleasant surprise in his short tenure with the Pats, and Corey Dillon had a career year in 2004 before injuries and a lightened workload cut into his production. Now, after being heralded as the pre-season Super Bowl favorites by many experts, the Patriots will turn to Laurence Maroney to carry the running attack by himself in 2007.

This will be Maroney’s second year in the league, and already, he has shown signs of brilliance and potential to become a star in this league. It’s no surprise that Maroney was able to make an impact on the team, but the extent of his impact in just his rookie year sent shock waves around New England. With one stiff arm in Cincinnati, Laurence Maroney was no longer looked at as just another rookie, but as the future of the franchise.

When the Pats took Maroney in the first round of the ’06 Draft, it clearly sent a message to the team and the fans that Corey Dillon was not going to be the long-term solution at running back for this team. With defensive studs still on the board, including Manny Lawson and DeMeco Ryans, who would have helped an aging linebacking core, they instead decided to draft a runner, which made a good amount of sense considering the Pats ranked 24th in overall rushing, and 30th in yards per carry.

With the combination of Dillon and Maroney in the backfield, the Pats were able to make an instant improvement in their running attack. New England gained 1969 yards, 457 more yards than their amount in 2005, which was good enough for 12th in the league. In addition, their yards per carry went from 3.45 to almost four yards, which was the fifth best improvement from the two years (Atlanta, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Tennessee).

However, this year, a member of the two-headed backfield giant has been let go, and now, the pressure falls squarely on Maroney to try and duplicate what he and Dillon accomplished last year. Of course it would be asking too much of him to do anything close to what Dillon did in 2004, so what kind of expectations should Patriot fans have for Maroney in 2007?

First, Maroney’s health issues will have to clear up to really be able to even project any kind of number for him. However, knowing the way Bill Belichick hides the severity of injuries, Maroney’s health for the season opener at Giants Stadium will likely be unknown. Belichick has stated that he expects Maroney to be ready for training camp, he hasn’t been exposed to contact since his off-season shoulder surgery, so his effectiveness is unknown. Maroney was able to play through a nagging back injury last year, so he’s used to playing in pain. This will be a different scenario however, as Maroney will likely get 250-300 carries this season, which is a big jump from the 175 attempts he had last year.

The good news for Maroney is that, unlike San Francisco, Kansas City, and other run-heavy teams, Maroney will not be the focal point of the offense. With the additions to the passing game, and one of the better quarterbacks of this generation at the helm, Maroney will not be under nearly as much pressure as a guy like Frank Gore, who plays with a relative newcomer to the league in Alex Smith, and a below-average receiving core, meaning Gore has to be “Mr. Everything” for the Niners.

The bad news about Dillon leaving is that, for the first time, Maroney will not have someone of equal talent to split carries with him. While Maroney was playing at Minnesota, he played with Marion Barber III, who had over 200 carries in both years he played with Maroney, and Gary Russell his junior year, who rushed for over 1,000 yards.

The depth at running back for the Pats is anything but solid. New England went out and signed Sammy Morris to back up Maroney, but he’s only had 100 attempts once in seven seasons, so Morris will only get about five or six carries a game. Kevin Faulk is third on the chart, but outside of third down plays, you will rarely see Faulk line up in the backfield, as he is used much more in the passing game. Speaking of which, look for the Pats to use Maroney more as a receiving threat, as he averaged 8.8 yards a catch on 22 receptions.

While health issues and a lack of experience being the number one guy could alter how effective he will be, the fact remains that from his college days and the small sample of time he’s spent in the NFL, Laurence Maroney has the potential to be a featured back in this league. If he is able to overcome those obstacles, you’re looking at a guy with 1,500 yard potential. While he may not get the amount of carries to hit that mark, Maroney can be thankful to be in a system where he does not have to worry about carrying the offense, and can be eased into the role of featured back with the improvements made to the passing game, and an experienced signal-caller lined up behind center.

Have a good weekend everyone. Peace.


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