This is perhaps the most crucial preseason of Laurence Maroney's NFL career. Not only because he's coming back from an injury that limited to just three games in 2008, and not only because he's facing some of the stiffest competition he's seen in the four training camps he's gone through with the Patriots.
This is the time when he's got to prove he's doing more than just running to stand still.
Maroney didn't get the start in Thursday night 7-6 loss to the Bengals. With the Patriots looking to run four-receiver sets to open the game, Fred Taylor instead got the start, and had 26 yards on seven carries despite not playing at all in the first preseason game. When Maroney did get the chance to come in with 12:20 left in the second quarter, he looked to make an impact immediately.
After stumbling on his first carry and coming up with no gain, he showed some of his improved route-running and pass-catching by pulling down a 14-yard grab from quarterback Kevin O'connell on the next play, and then making those short runs for gains of two and four yards on the next two plays.
It's been a big week for Maroney talk around New England. Sports-radio callers and sports bar denizens have speculated that his time with the Patriots may be running short. He was less than impressive in the first preseason game — 14 yards on six carries — but it was also his first real football action in over 10 months.