Thursday, September 23, 2010

Short-sighted Patriots have no viable replacement for Faulk

It is official: Kevin Faulk is out for the season with an ACL injury (story).  Faulk was underappreciated by most; he knew pass protection as well as the offensive line and rarely screwed up a blocking assignment, missed only three games in the last four years, and was underrated as a running threat out of the spread formation.

Anyone who doubts Faulk's value should remember that his absence led to Tom Brady missing almost an entire season.  Faulk was suspended for the first game of the 2008 season, and Sammy Morris got only a partial block on blitzing safety Bernard Pollard.  When Pollard dove for the QB, he collapsed his knee, ending Brady's 2008 before it really began.

For the last ten years, the team counted on Faulk to squeeze out the extra yard for a first down, pick up a blind-side blitzer, and even return punts -- not something a lot of veterans do.  He will be missed on a team struggling on offense.

That the team has no realistic replacement for Faulk is a problem -- and a self-inflicted one.  Longtime Patriots back Laurence Maroney would have been a good choice to replace Faulk.  In fact, just two weeks ago I wrote this about Maroney's future with the team:

Laurence Maroney will have a job here for years to come. Maroney is very good in blitz pickup, has good hands, and can gain decent yardage on outlet passes because he's better in space than between the tackles. He will replace Kevin Faulk when Faulk retires because they are both ideal third-down backs -- but in the meantime, he'll have a job here as long as he's healthy enough.

I had no idea the Patriots would trade Maroney (story), and given the age of their running backs they should have considered this more carefully before pulling the trigger.  Moving up two rounds in the 2011 draft might have seemed like a big deal at the time, but with three 30+ running backs (two of whom are injury prone) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis left on the roster, Maroney would have been a nice insurance policy against injury.

As it is, Fred Taylor (who missed almost all of last season) starts, Sammy Morris (who missed 17 games in his 3 years here) is the likely successor to Faulk on third downs, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the closest they have to a short-yardage back -- but frankly not much more.  Some have suggested that Julian Edelman might play more running back, but he's too small to take on blitzing linebackers on third downs, though he could probably handle safeties and cornerbacks.

Let's just say I'm glad I don't have to fix this problem.  Although if I'd been in charge, I would not have traded Maroney, so my solution would be waiting on the bench.  Most Patriots fans would disagree, but it is time to consider trading with Denver to bring Maroney back.  If pride does indeed goeth before a fall, the Pats should admit the mistake and bring Maroney back before something disasterous happens.

- Scott

1 comment:

  1. Yep. I always thought Maroney was the heir apparent to Faulk. To say this one hurts a lot is an understatement. I'm looking at the whole year going town the porcelain convenience. No D, No O, not looking good.