Running In The Wrong Direction

Joe BridnerContributor IJuly 2, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - AUGUST 22: Laurence Maroney #39 of the New England Patriots sits out the second half against the Philadelphia Eagles during preseason action at Gillette Stadium on August 22, 2008 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

He's alone in the backfield and he sees nowhere to go. Defenders close in and his every move seems to be predictable. He looks for that one hole; That one opening that he knows he can break through. The one that puts emphasis on why he plays football.

How he responds at this very moment is how he will be defined by himself, players, coaches, and fans for years to follow. This one last carry for Laurence Maroney.

Think back to the 2006 draft for a moment.

New England is on the clock. The selection is in; "With the 21st overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft the New England Patriots select Laurence Maroney."

In 2006, we saw flashes. Every time the ball was carried by No. 39, it was evident that it could be six points. The simplicity of the cuts or a single stutter-step showed he had talent. Week 4 against the Bengals was proof.

He was in.

It could still be seen even after he came back from missing two games with torn rib cartilage. He had the means to become one of the premier running backs in the league.

The year 2007 I thought would be his coming-out party. As reality works out, it was a party that he could barely participate in. After injuring his groin in Week 3, he seemed destined to be locked in the shadows of the Tom Brady-to-Randy Moss show.He played more as a deceptive tool—an untimely diversion to try and set up the pass.

But when we called his number, he stepped up. His resilience intact helped show those familiar signs, even in the playoffs. In the two games before the Super Bowl, he rushed for 244 yards and two scores. Not bad numbers, but could he carry the momentum?

The short answer is no.

In a rather injury-plagued year, Maroney fell victim yet again to the injury bug. He was placed on I.R. after only playing three games and running for 93 yards at 3.3/ypc. What seemed to be talent turned into either dancing in the backfield or an injury.

Now as we look forward to another season, I can not help but think he is on the hot seat. It is said that it takes three years to evaluate a draft pick enough to call him a boom or bust. I think that the number three doesn't hold much tide to him.

In the past, Laurence stated that "Getting the opportunity to come here is a blessing. I just want to come here and work hard. I don't want to walk in the footsteps of another back. I want to create my own legacy."

His fourth season had better be the season he gets started on that legacy. It is time for him to step up. It is time to make it or break it.