Maroney is in his fifth year in the NFL, and is coming off a season in which he had a career-high nine touchdowns. At 6'0" 220 pounds, Maroney is clearly a powerful running back who definitely hasn't lost anything in terms of his skill level.
What has affected Maroney was a shoulder injury he suffered early in the 2008 season (Josh McDaniels' final season in New England) that sidelined him for all but three games that season.
Despite some questions surrounding him about fumbling and durability, the numbers simply do not lie. This was a very shrewd move by the Denver Broncos to get a running back of Maroney's caliber for only a fourth round pick, while also getting a sixth rounder in return.
One thing the Broncos need a lot of help with is their short yardage game, particularly running the ball. One would think former first round pick Knowshon Moreno would be able to handle this duty, but he has been unable to get the tough two, three, or even four yards when the Broncos desperately needed it, so they brought in a specialist.
The team first tried to sign LenDale White, who ruptured his achilles in the final pre-season game. Obviously, the Broncos weren't expecting such a drastic thing to happen in a game that is probably the most pointless in terms of your starters, but they took a risk playing him and it backfired badly.
But for as much credit as is given to White for his short yardage prowess, not enough is given to Maroney, who is a fantastic short yardage back in his own right.
For Maroney and the Patriots, it was time to move on. He was constantly lost in crowded backfields, one that last year included Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Despite seeing a career high 194 attempts in 2009, Maroney still seems under-utilized, and that may continue with the Broncos, but perhaps his best role is as a complimentary back like he was in New England. He certainly has never been a hindrance to the team.
What the Broncos needed was someone to get them the tough yards. Someone who is absolutely money in the bank from five yards and in near the goal line. They got that in Laurence Maroney.
I was looking back at Maroney's 2009 season, watching all nine of his touchdowns. The first touchdown he had was from 45 yards out in the Patriots' 59-0 blowout of the then reeling Tennessee Titans. Perhaps you will recall that game, which was played AFL style in the bright white snowy tundra--Foxboro.
From that game on, Maroney scored eight touchdowns over the course of 10 games. Here is a stat from those eight touchdowns: Not one exceeded five yards.
When the Patriots needed a touchdown near the goal line, you could bet your life they were handing the ball to Maroney. Though he only had one game over 100 yards and averaged 3.9 yards per carry, Maroney had a very productive 2009, which included as I previously stated a career high nine touchdown runs.
Now, Maroney did develop a bit of fumbleitis last year, where he saw a career high in carries. For his career, Maroney has fumbled five times and lost all five. Last year, he fumbled four times. Obviously, that's an issue that needs to be worked out, but he certainly hasn't had a consistent problem with fumbling over the course of his career.
At the end of the 2007 season, Maroney was playing absolutely out of his mind. Amidst an undefeated season, what the Patriots really needed to get them by down the stretch was a punishing running game near the end of the game, and from December 16th until the end of the season, Maroney had 104, 156, 46, 122, 122, and 36 yards along with seven touchdowns in those six games.
You can see why he was expected to be a huge fantasy football stud going into the 2008 season.
For the Broncos, Maroney will create his own role, just like every other player on the team. With Correll Buckhalter clearly on the downside of a productive but rocky career, Maroney could be just what the doctor ordered for Denver.
I'm not suggesting a Pro Bowl caliber season, but the future with Maroney as Moreno's primary backup has to be at the very least encouraging for Broncos fans.
Maroney is not yet at 100 percent health, but when he gets back, you can rest assured he will get every chance to be the Broncos' short yardage back. If he can provide a spark to the running game, this offense could be deadly moving forward.