Running Back Turnarounds: Bad in ’07, Better in ’08?
Maroney: The disappointing sophomore finished the near-perfect Patriots season with 835 yards and six rushing touchdowns. Maroney missed time in 2007 and didn’t record a TD until Week 10. He was not the primary runner and did not receive many carries until the final month of the season. The Patriots were on an aerial attack with Tom Brady and Randy Moss setting touchdown records, and the running game wasn’t getting much love. However, in the last six games, including the playoffs, Maroney carried the ball 26, 14, 19, 22, 25, and 14 times for 586 yards and 7 TD’s (at least one in every game). You could take this a few ways — Were the Patriots focusing more on the running game late in the year? Were they saving Maroney for the later stages of the season to have a fresh back? Do the Patriots know how injury-prone Maroney is so they didn’t work him much throughout the season? Or was Maroney just hurt throughout the year and Belicheck decided to ease up on him? A lot of questions arise with this Patriot mystery. We don’t know if Maroney can stay healthy and, thanks to the Patriot injury report games, we may not know
when he is healthy. It may be worth your while to take Maroney in the 4th round knowing what he is capable of.
Jones: The one-TD man ran for about 1,100 yards last season, but received an upgrade on the offensive front this offseason. Another mid-4th round back is hoping to rebound in the 2008 campaign. However, the quick, versatile Leon Washington is an athletic back who will see the playing field for a number of offensive snaps. The Jets also acquired Jesse Chatman and Musa Smith this past spring, which makes you wonder how much confidence they have in the 30-year old veteran. Neither should be a significant threat to Jones’ starting gig, but if he struggles early behind the new and improved O-line, the Jets may pull the trigger. The QB position is unstable and the WR corps are just decent, but I don’t think Jones is going to be a bust for the second straight year on his new team. I also think the Jets can win eight games this year, so I’m higher on them than most.
The usually reliable and consistent Rudi Johnson had an injury-plagued 2007 season. He ran for only about 500 yards and just three touchdowns. For the three previous seasons, Johnson ran for an average of 1,400 yards and 12 scores. Reports are this former 1st-rounder has bulked up to 230 pounds and is working on getting back to the running style that allowed him to thrive in 2004-2006. He is currently going in approximately the 5th round, so he could be had as a RB3, who is just one year removed from a 1,300, 12-TD season because of injury. It’s up to you whether or not you think Rudi still has something left in the tank at the age of 29 come October. I think he’ll have one more decent season before he hits 30-year old mark, but limit your expectations.
Jones: New place for this face in ’08. The Seahawks signed the ex-Cowboy this offseason, which left Shaun Alexander unemployed. The 27-year old back carried the ball only 164 times last season since he split time with Marion Barber. Although not much was expected from him in 2007 (588-two TDs), some are holding great expectations for JJ in ’08. With Maurice Morris and T.J. Duckett in town, I do not anticipate a big year in store for Julius. In mock drafts, he is going in the area of these RB’s, but I see a big gap in the potential for a solid season between them.