NFL Nation: Laurence Maroney

The Arizona Cardinals think rookie running back Ryan Williams tore a patella tendon in his right knee.

That was the preliminary word from coach Ken Whisenhunt following the Cardinals' 28-20 preseason defeat at Green Bay on Friday night. Williams would miss the 2011 season if that were the case. He would then face a grueling rehabilitation.

St. Louis Rams running back Cadillac Williams has had torn patella injuries, one to each knee, while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He returned the next season in each case and hasn't missed a game over the past two seasons.

This would be a costly injury for the Cardinals because their other primary back, Beanie Wells, remains unproven. Wells has also missed time with injuries during his two seasons in the NFL.

The Cardinals used a second-round draft choice on Williams this offseason. Whisenhunt said they had him rated as one of the 15 best players available. Williams did not disappoint during training camp, either. He showed an ability to change directions without sacrificing much speed. I thought he had a chance to supplant Wells in the starting lineup at some point during this season.

This injury could lead to more playing time for LaRod Stephens-Howling. The Cardinals have used Stephens-Howling increasingly over the past couple seasons, sometimes with three wide receivers and another running back.

Arizona has stocked up on tight ends this offseason, giving the team additional flexibility with its personnel groups. But just about every grouping includes at least one running back. Wells hasn't been consistent in pass protection and he missed a block against Green Bay.

Among the running backs available: Laurence Maroney, Kenneth Darby, Julius Jones and Brian Westbrook.

Rams downplay need for running back

April, 26, 2011
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Adding depth at running back and finding a possible successor for Steven Jackson has become an occasional topic around here as the St. Louis Rams head toward the draft.

The Rams sound more inclined to seek a complementary back than an eventual replacement.

"In our minds, (Jackson) is still playing at an extremely high level," general manager Billy Devaney told reporters Tuesday. "So, we don't feel like, 'Gosh, we'd better start looking down the road.' This kid is as good as there is. We don't feel any pressure to start lining somebody up to take Steven Jackson's place."

That is the politically correct thing to say and, most likely, the truth as well. Coach Steve Spagnuolo cast the Rams' search for a running back in the "complementary" mold.

"People call them 'third-down backs, sub backs, change-of-pace backs,' " Spagnuolo said. "There’s all those kinds of things you could throw in there. The one thing, you guys that know (coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) a little bit and his history, he’ll take what’s given to him and work around it. So, we’ll see what we have when all of this putting together is finished."

McDaniels' teams have drafted six running backs over the years: Knowshon Moreno and Laurence Maroney in the first round, Cedric Cobbs in the fourth, Justise Hairston in the sixth and two backs, Spencer Nead (fullback/tight end) and Antwoine Womack, in the seventh.

Excluding Nead, most were at least 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 7, 2011
4/07/11
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NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: history in that spot.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos’ top pick is No. 2 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: DT Ndamukong Suh (Lions)

2009: T Jason Smith (Rams)

2008: DE Chris Long (Rams)

2007: WR Calvin Johnson (Lions)

2006: RB Reggie Bush (Saints)

2005: RB Ronnie Brown (Dolphins)

2004: OL Robert Gallery (Raiders)

ANALYSIS: This is the Broncos’ first top-five pick since 1991 when they took linebacker Mike Croel at No. 4. The Broncos would love to have the success Detroit had last year with the pick. Suh looks like a unit changer and Denver needs a similarly dominant defender. Detroit is the only team to have great success at No. 2 in the past seven years. Along with Suh, Johnson is a fabulous player. There are some good players on this list, though, with no flat-out duds. The Rams hope to see progress in Smith and Long, who made strides in 2010.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers’ top pick is No. 18 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: C Maurkice Pouncey (Steelers)

2009: LB Robert Ayers (Broncos)

2008: QB Joe Flacco (Ravens)

2007: CB Leon Hall (Bengals)

2006: LB Bobby Carpenter (Cowboys)

2005: LB Erasmus James (Vikings)

2004: DE Will Smith (Saints)

ANALYSIS: This is an interesting group. It shows teams can find franchise players at No. 18, but they can also make a major mistake with the pick. Flacco was a tremendous value for Baltimore in 2008. Pouncey looks like he’ll be at center in Pittsburgh for the next decade. Smith has also had a terrific career and was a solid pick at No. 18. James was a terrible pick, Carpenter wasn’t worth it and the jury is still out on Ayers. The Chargers know they have to pick smart. They took linebacker Larry English at No. 16 in 2009 and are waiting for a payoff. It’s interesting that there are four defensive ends/linebackers on this list. That’s exactly the position the Chargers will be looking for with the No. 18 pick.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs’ top pick is No. 21 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: TE Jermaine Gresham (Bengals)

2009: C Alex Mack (Browns)

2008: T Sam Baker (Falcons)

2007: S Reggie Nelson (Jaguars)

2006: RB Laurence Maroney (Patriots)

2005: WR Matt Jones (Jaguars)

2004: DT Vince Wilfork (Patriots)

ANALYSIS: The Kansas City Chiefs are not used to drafting this low. Kansas City has picked in the top five the past three years. However, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is plenty familiar with having the No. 21 pick. He was with New England when it had the choice in 2004 and 2006. Pioli has seen teams both score and whiff with the pick. Wilfork was a tremendous choice while taking Maroney was a blunder. However, the pick has paid solid dividends in recent years. This doesn’t appear to be a bad spot to be in.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders’ top pick is No. 48 overall. Here are the previous seven players taken in that spot, with their NFL team in parentheses:

2010: QB Jimmy Clausen (Panthers)

2009: S Darcel McBath (Broncos)

2008: TE Fred Davis (Redskins)

2007: LB Justin Durant (Jagaurs)

2006: DB Cedric Griffin (Vikings)

2005: LB Odell Thurman (Bengals)

2004: LB Dontarrious Thomas (Vikings)

ANALYSIS: It’s interesting that a quarterback was taken at this spot in 2010. Clausen was the third quarterback taken last year. If a quarterback such as Washington’s Jake Locker or Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett takes a similar tumble, we could see a quarterback taken at No. 48 again. This pick has been hit-or-miss, so it could be worth taking a gamble. Oakland picked at No. 47 two years ago and is still waiting for safety Mike Mitchell to develop. Last year, Oakland took defensive lineman Lamarr Houston at No. 44 and he had a terrific rookie season. In 2007, Oakland took standout tight end Zach Miller at No. 38. The Raiders know they can find talent in the second round.

Top draft busts in AFC East history tallied

February, 28, 2011
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When word got out the New York Jets would release defensive end Vernon Gholston, I solicited your nominees for the AFC East's biggest draft busts.

These disappointments received the most votes for each club:

Buffalo Bills
  1. Defensive end Aaron Maybin (11th in 2009)
  2. Tackle Mike Williams (fourth in 2002)
  3. Quarterback J.P. Losman (22nd in 2004)
  4. Defensive tackle John McCargo (26th in 2006)
  5. Defensive end Erik Flowers (26th in 2000)
Comment: Sadly, Buffalo's list suggests readers don't remember the team before the Music City Miracle. Last year's strong safety, Donte Whitner, finished sixth. Epic busts Walt Patulski (first in 1972), Tony Hunter (12th in 1983) and Perry Tuttle (19th in 1982) received only one vote each. Nobody mentioned running back Terry Miller (fifth in 1978).

Miami Dolphins
  1. Receiver Yatil Green (15th in 1997)
  2. Receiver Ted Ginn (ninth in 2007)
  3. Running back John Avery (29th in 1998)
  4. Cornerback Jamar Fletcher (26th in 2001)
  5. Receiver Randal Hill (23rd in 1991), Eric Kumerow (16th in 1988), running back Sammie Smith (ninth in 1989)
Comment: The Dolphins were the most nominated team in this exercise. They led with 16 nominees and the number of votes cast. Green didn't play in his rookie or sophomore seasons because of injuries and lasted eight games his third year. My pick would have been Kumerow, whose career consisted of three seasons, zero starts and five sacks.

New England Patriots
  • Running back Laurence Maroney (21st in 2006)
  • Receiver Chad Jackson (36th in 2006)
  • Receiver Hart Lee Dykes (16th in 1989)
  • Cornerback Chris Canty (29th in 1997)
  • Offensive lineman Eugene Chung (13th in 1992), defensive end Kenneth Sims (first in 1982), linebacker Chris Singleton (eighth in 1990)
Comment: I was surprised Sims didn't receive more attention. He was the No. 1 choice ahead of Marcus Allen, Gerald Riggs, Mike Munchak, Jim McMahon and Chip Banks. Maroney received the most votes, but he also generated the most spirited debate because many readers disagreed he should be considered a bust. Jackson was a second-round pick, but the Patriots traded up 16 spots to get him.

New York Jets
  1. Running back Blair Thomas (second in 1990)
  2. Defensive end Vernon Gholston (sixth in 2008)
  3. Tight end Kyle Brady (ninth in 1995)
  4. Defensive tackle DeWayne Robertson (fourth in 2003)
  5. Receiver Johnny "Lam" Jones (second in 1980)
Comment: There was a lot of material to work with here. I was satisfied readers emphasized the magnitude of the bust over the freshness of Gholston's release by voting for Thomas. The next running back off the board in 1990 was Emmitt Smith.
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that former Denver coach Josh McDaniels’ talks with the St. Louis Rams are breaking down.

McDaniels, who was fired in December after 28 games as Denver's coach, was considered the leading candidate as the next offensive coordinator for the Rams. He interviewed with the Rams on Saturday and had interviewed with Minnesota a week earlier.

The Rams’ job was considered the most attractive opportunity for McDaniels because St. Louis is a team on the rise and features young star quarterback Sam Bradford.

If McDaniels doesn’t end up in St. Louis, his options may be limited if the Vikings don’t turn to him. There are offensive coordinator openings in Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland. I don’t see McDaniels landing in Kansas City, despite his connections with quarterback Matt Cassel and general manager Scott Pioli, and I’d be surprised if he went to Oakland.

Meanwhile, one of the former New England Patriots who McDaniels brought to Denver, running back Laurence Maroney,was arrested in St. Louis on drug and weapon charges. I wouldn’t be surprised if Maroney was an ex-Bronco sometime soon.

He was a non-factor after McDaniels sent a fourth-round pick to the Patriots for him after the first game of the 2010 season. Maroney had little chance of staying in Denver under the new staff even before his arrest.

DanJarvus Green-Woodhead propels Pats

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
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Danny WoodheadStew Milne/US PresswireUnheralded running back Danny Woodhead has helped bring balance to New England's offense.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are such iconic quarterbacks, their teams often are depicted as ancillary.

It was Brady and everybody else on the New England Patriots versus Manning and everybody else on the Indianapolis Colts.

On Sunday, everybody else on the Patriots was superior to everybody else on the Colts. The Patriots held on for a thrilling 31-28 victory in Gillette Stadium.

The latest installment of the Brady versus Manning rivalry didn't disappoint, but while Manning threw for a garish amount of yards and touchdowns, Brady didn't drive New England's offense.

The Patriots controlled the game with running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, overachievers who were neither drafted nor claimed whenever they were placed on waivers.

Patriots play-caller Bill O'Brien was masterful at mixing in the bruising Green-Ellis and the elusive Woodhead, sometimes alternating them play for play. The DanJarvus Green-Woodhead combo rushed for all but 3 of the Patriots' 168 net rushing yards.

They have added a dimension to the Patriots' run game first-round draft choice Laurence Maroney wasn't willing or capable to bring. Maroney was criticized for being too indecisive and not hitting the hole.

That's not a problem with New England's current combo.

"It's just too hard to run away from these guys," Patriots tight end Alge Crumpler said of defenders. "They're too fast, too light on their feet. You have to go through them. It's hand the ball off and run downhill. Sometimes it works that way, and it was fun it be a part of it."

A quality run game is critical for New England's offense, especially since they traded Randy Moss. Defenses are crowding the box more than before.

And with the always-reliable Kevin Faulk out for the season after two games and the disappointing Maroney traded in September, a couple of unproven backs had to step up.

Green-Ellis ran 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. He helped the Patriots grind down the clock with seven carries for 40 yards in the fourth quarter.

Woodhead had seven attempts for 69 yards. He produced a dazzling, 36-yard touchdown weave in the third quarter. He then made a stupendous tackle on the ensuing kickoff. Woodhead also caught four passes for 21 yards.

They gave the Colts fits, whatever the situation.

"With Woodhead in the game, we look at it as an empty backfield," Colts safety Antoine Bethea said. "He's another receiver. He has the ability to get out and, if a linebacker or safety is on him, it's a tough matchup.

"When Green-Ellis is in the game, we know they're running downhill, and they're going to get the hard yards."

[+] EnlargeNew England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed 21 times for 96 yards and a touchdown against the Colts.
The Colts were going to win or lose with whatever Manning did. He passed for 396 yards and four touchdowns to give the Patriots a scare. But he failed to tie the game or win it when, with 31 seconds left on the clock and the Colts within field-goal range, he threw his third interception.

With Green-Ellis and Woodhead, the Patriots' offense was diversified.

Brady played a tidy game and certainly exuded his usual championship presence throughout the game. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for a 123.1 passer rating.

Still, Green-Ellis and Woodhead were highly prominent. Of their 60 offensive snaps, the Patriots ran 34 times.

"They're getting a lot of opportunities because we're running the ball," Brady said. "It's not just drop back and throw it every time. That's certainly important, especially in a game like this, to be able to run the ball. We found ways to do it."

Green-Ellis and Woodhead became more integral to the game plan as the game wore on.

The Patriots scored the first two touchdowns and held a pair of 14-point margins in the second quarter and took another late in the third. With 10:23 left in the game, a Shayne Graham field goal gave the Patriots a 31-14 lead.

Some teams would just pound away with their feature back. The Patriots kept mixing Green-Ellis and Woodhead with wonderful success. All but one of Woodhead's rushing attempts came in the second half.

ESPN Stats & Information charted New England for 114 rushing yards up the middle, its highest total of the year. Indianapolis' defense went into the game yielding an average of 4.6 yards a carry up the middle. With linebackers Gary Brackett and Clint Session scratched because of injuries, Green-Ellis and Woodhead feasted.

For the season, Green-Ellis has 568 rushing yards and seven touchdowns, the first Patriots running back to run for seven touchdowns through 10 games since Corey Dillon in 2006.

Woodhead has 529 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns, certainly disgusting stats for anyone who wears New York Jets apparel. The Jets waived him this year because they didn't have a roster spot for him.

Woodhead and Green-Ellis are sharing the load and making the Patriots a better team.

"Football is a team sport," Woodhead said. "We've got to work together. We're on team. We're doing this thing together."
DENVER -- Kansas City rookie receiver/returner/running back Dexter McCluster is inactive for the third straight game because of an ankle injury.

The Chiefs are also without safeties Jon McGraw (knee) and Kendrick Lewis (hamstring). Donald Washington may be set to start with Eric Berry at safety. The Chiefs have not made that announcement yet. Linebacker Corey Mays is inactive for the first time this season.

Kansas City has signed safety Ricky Price from the practice squad. Linebacker Charlie Anderson was cut to make room for him.

For Denver, running back Laurence Maroney is inactive. Lance Ball, who can play special teams, is active. Denver traded a fourth-round draft pick for Maroney earlier this season. As expected, linebacker Robert Ayers and cornerback Andre' Goodman are inactive because of injuries.

Final Word: AFC East

October, 15, 2010
10/15/10
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 6:


[+] EnlargeDeion Branch
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesReceiver Deion Branch has rejoined the Patriots after catching 13 passes with Seattle this season.
Don't expect a huge statistical impact from Deion Branch. The Patriots traded for him to help fill the void left by Randy Moss, but there are three reasons you shouldn't expect big contributions right away: 1) Branch isn't the same type of player Moss is; 2) Moss wasn't being used as we'd come to expect anymore; 3) Branch might be sharing snaps with Brandon Tate until Branch gets comfortable with the playbook. The Patriots have established their offense this year with multiple tight ends and don't spread out three-plus receivers anymore. Moss caught only nine passes for New England before the trade. Expect Tom Brady to lean heavily on slot receiver Wes Welker, his tight ends and a revitalized ground game with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been running the way Patriots fans wished Laurence Maroney would.

The Dolphins can barge back into the division title discussion with a victory at Lambeau Field. Sunday's game against the Packers is a pivotal one. Either the Dolphins will be spiraling with a third straight loss, or they'll be undefeated on the road with another upset victory against an NFC foe many considered a preseason Super Bowl contender. With quarterback Aaron Rodgers expected to be properly healed from last week's concussion, the Dolphins aren't supposed to win. But the Packers are banged up enough to remove confidence from any prediction.

The Jets don't need to win this Sunday, but a victory would put them in a dominant position. I'm not saying the Jets can afford to take a week off, but Sunday's game against the Broncos at Invesco Field is one of the least important in terms of the standings. If the Jets happen to drop this one, fans shouldn't get too worked up. The Jets have gotten off to a 4-1 start. They're undefeated within the division, have a winning record at home and away. Had you offered all of that plus a 4-2 record at the break to Rex Ryan before the season started, I'm sure he would have taken it. Sunday's game wouldn't even factor into the tie-breaking procedures until the fourth step, because the Broncos aren't a common opponent within the AFC East.

We'll find out Sunday if the Patriots' defense is up to snuff. The Ravens are a running juggernaut that can throw a little. They also lead the NFL in third-down conversions. They will be a rugged test for the Patriots' worrisome defense, which has been forgotten about recently. In that Week 4 obliteration of the Dolphins in Sun Life Stadium, the Patriots' defense and special teams enjoyed a rollicking night. They returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown, blocked a punt and intercepted four passes, taking one back for a score. Then the focus shifted to the offense when the Patriots traded Moss and acquired Branch in separate deals during their bye week. The Patriots can't count on 21 points from their special teams every week to gloss over their defensive inadequacies. They rank 29th in total defense, 20th in run defense and 28th in pass defense.

The Bills have four days to turn some players into draft picks. There's little optimism surrounding the Bills at the moment. They're 0-4 and on their bye week. Five of their next seven games are against teams that either lead their divisions or won them last year. The Steelers are one of the exceptions, and they happen to be considered elite this year. The Bills won't play another game in Ralph Wilson Stadium until Nov. 14 because their next home game takes place in Toronto. So what's the next event Bills fans should be watching out for? The trade deadline is at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Maybe they'll unload some players.

Patriots welcome back Deion Branch

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
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The New England Patriots have pulled the trigger on the second phase of their Randy Moss expulsion.

Branch
Branch
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots have acquired old friend Deion Branch to help fill the void created when they catapulted Moss from their roster last week. Schefter said the Patriots sent a fourth-round draft choice to the Seattle Seahawks for Branch, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIX for the Patriots.

The Patriots had two fourth-round picks, having acquired another from the Denver Broncos for Laurence Maroney.

The Minnesota Vikings sent their third-round pick to the Patriots for Moss on Wednesday.

The Boston Globe reported Friday that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had been in frequent contact with Branch about a reunion before the Patriots traded Moss to the Minnesota Vikings.

In four games with Seattle this year, Branch had 13 catches for 112 yards and one touchdown. That might not sound like a lot, but he actually was their leading wide receiver. Tight end John Carlson has a team-leading 14 catches.

Branch spent his first four seasons with the Patriots, when he caught 213 passes for 2,744 yards and 14 touchdowns. He had 190 receptions for 2,347 yards and 15 touchdowns in more than four seasons with Seattle.
The Denver Broncos are desperate to find balance on their offense. It may have to wait another week.

Denver coach Josh McDaniels announced Friday that starting tailback Knowshon Moreno will miss his third straight game with a hamstring injury. Moreno missed all of August with another hamstring injury. He played in the first two games of the season and had 11 yards on 39 carries.

Moreno’s numbers weren't fantastic, but Denver has had no ground game without him. The Bronocos had 19 yards on 20 attempts last week. The Broncos are ranked last in the NFL in on the ground as it is averaging 2.2 yards per carry and 55 yards per game as backups Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney have been ineffective.

However, the Kyle Orton-led passing offense is ranked No. 1 in the league. Expect the savvy Baltimore defense to load up to stop the pass and force Denver to run without Moreno in the lineup.

Something amiss with Randy Moss trade

October, 6, 2010
10/06/10
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If New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick truly is a genius, then he had better have something up his hoodie we don't know about.

Wednesday's trade makes little sense given the information we have at our disposal at the moment.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
AP Photo/Wilfredo LeeRandy Moss reportedly had a confrontation with Bill Belichick following the Dolphins game.
The Patriots dealt star receiver Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Patriots will get a third-round draft choice in exchange.

There are many ways to dissect the deal. The Patriots gave up only a fourth-round draft choice to get Moss from the Oakland Raiders in 2007. Moss spent three-plus seasons with the Patriots, helped Tom Brady set a few records along the way and was a major reason they came within one game of an undefeated season.

In that regard, the Patriots look like winners even though they couldn't hoist a Lombardi Trophy with Moss.

They gave up little to acquire a superstar who went to the Pro Bowl in two of his three full seasons and caught 50 touchdowns in 52 games. They went 40-12 with him, including an 11-5 campaign with Matt Cassel at quarterback.

But jettisoning Moss now is puzzling.

He's a game-changing receiver who keeps defenses honest and opens up the offense for players such as slot receiver Wes Welker and, this year, rookie tight ends Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. Moss is an elite deep threat.

Even though Moss is entering the final year of his contract and he had only nine receptions through four games (the Patriots are 3-1), his value to New England's organizational objectives for this year obviously is worth more than a third-round draft choice in 2011.

The Patriots, much like the New York Yankees, are the kind of team that legitimately expects to win a championship every year.

Without Moss, the Patriots seem to be significantly weakened on offense, and that's particularly troubling given the way their defense has faltered this year. The Patriots will need to win some games by getting into shootouts to overcome their defensive vulnerabilities.

AccuScore calculates the Patriots are 10.5 percent less likely to make the playoffs without Moss.

There must be more to this story than the Patriots merely trying to acquire a draft asset for a player who would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Moss popped off a few times this year about not getting a contract extension from the Patriots and feeling unappreciated by the front office. Belichick publicly shrugged off those comments and heaped praise on Moss as a special player.

Reports surfaced Tuesday that Moss had requested to be traded after the season opener and, after being thrown at just once Monday night against the Miami Dolphins and finishing the game with zero receptions, had a confrontation with Belichick.

Maybe the trade makes the Patriots better simply by removing him, a classic addition by subtraction move to get the Patriots focused for the rest of the season.

We may learn more once Moss has unpacked his duffel bag in Minnesota.

Perhaps then this trade will make more sense.

Halftime observations from Pats at Fins

October, 4, 2010
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MIAMI -- Some halftime thoughts from the Sun Life Stadium press box, where the Miami Dolphins are leading the New England Patriots on Monday night 7-6:
  • The shootout I expected hasn't materialized yet. Both teams are passing more than running, but the throws have been short. New England's longest pass play has been 12 yards. Miami's has been 21 yards.
  • Chad Henne was an inferno to start the game. He completed his first seven passes for 93 yards and a touchdown. From his eighth pass on he completed 4 of 8 attempts for 31 yards and two bad interceptions to linebacker Rob Ninkovich, a Dolphins castoff.
  • Star receivers Brandon Marshall and Randy Moss have been zeroed out so far. The only time Henne threw in Marshall's direction, he forced the pass and got intercepted. Moss also has no catches on one target -- his in the end zone near the end of the half.
  • Even Wes Welker has been quiet. He didn't have a catch in the first quarter and didn't get involved until just before halftime with five receptions for a modest 33 yards.
  • The star so far has been Dolphins slot receiver Davone Bess. He has six receptions for 71 yards and the lone touchdown. He has three big catches on third down, including his 19-yard touchdown catch and run. ESPN Stats & Information has Bess down for 47 yards after the catch.
  • Running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis sure gives Patriots fans a lot to cheer for. He hits the hole like they wished Laurence Maroney would. Green-Ellis has eight carries for 32 yards.
  • Patriots quarterback Tom Brady warmed up in the second quarter. He was 10-of-12 for 79 yards but couldn't get them into the end zone.
If the Denver Broncos are going to break through on the ground this week in Tennessee, they will have to do it without starting running back Knowshon Moreno.

Moreno’s disastrous early season is continuing. He will miss his second straight game because of a hamstring injury he suffered during practice last week. Moreno, the No. 12 overall draft pick in 2009, missed all of August with a hamstring injury.

Denver, which has been ravaged by injury at running back this year, will continue to go with Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney in Moreno’s absence. Neither of those players could get the Denver running game going last week, and they were particularly poor in the red zone.

Denver is 30th in the NFL on the ground, averaging 67 rushing yards a game. Denver is averaging 2.5 yards per carry, which is a league low. Denver is ranked No. 1 in passing in the NFL. Yet, a lack of balance and inefficiency in the red zone have been a big reason why the Broncs are 1-2.

The injury continues a frustrating second season for Moreno. The Broncos expected big things from him this season after an uneven rookie season in which Moreno tailed off terribly in the final month. He had just 173 of his 947 yards in the final four games of last season, all defeats. Moreno has 111 yards on 39 carries in two games this season.

Denver no longer a rushing power

September, 29, 2010
9/29/10
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During the 14-year Mike Shanahan era in Denver, the Broncos' running game was the gold standard in the NFL.

Year after year, no matter who was the lead tailback, Denver was near the top of the NFL in rushing. Running always set up the pass in Denver. That has changed. Three games into the second season of the Josh McDaniels era, the once-vaunted Denver running game is a memory.

Denver averages 2.5 yards per rush attempt, the lowest per-carry average in the league. Denver’s run offense is ranked 30th, averaging just 67 yards a game. Denver’s passing offense is ranked No. 1. A big reason why Denver is 1-2 is because of the lack of balance on offense. McDaniels used Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme last season, but he moved to a more power-blocking scheme this season.

However, Denver has dealt with major injury issues at running back and on the offensive line since the beginning of camp. Starting tailback Knowshon Moreno missed last week’s loss at the Colts with a hamstring injury he suffered at practice last week. Moreno, the No. 12 overall pick in 2009, missed all of August with a hamstring injury. He did not practice Wednesday in Denver. It’s unclear if he will be ready to play at Tennessee on Sunday.

If Moreno can’t play, Correll Buckhalter and newly acquired Laurence Maroney will play against the Titans. Neither player could do much, especially in the red zone, against the Colts.

McDaniels told reporters in Denver on Wednesday that there are no quick fixes to improve a running attack.

“All we can do is work to try and improve it and try to get our players to work together as many times as we can,” McDaniels said. “We have had a lot of people move in and out of those spots -- whether it be upfront (or) in the backfield. I think continuity is something that we are always going to try and strive for, but I don’t want a short-term fix. I think, as you go through the season, you try to build so that you are playing your best football towards the end. Certainly, we have room to improve not only in the running game but in a lot of areas. I think we are focused on just going out there and working hard and trying to fix what we can fix.”

Until that happens, Denver can long longer be known as a premier running team.

AFC East High Energy Player of the Week

September, 28, 2010
9/28/10
3:00
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NFC High Energy: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a player who gave his team a significant boost in Week 3.

The New England Patriots badly needed a backfield boost.

[+] EnlargeBenJarvus Green-Ellis
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaBenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed 16 times for 98 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo.
Five days after they traded Laurence Maroney, trusted veteran Kevin Faulk went down with a season-finishing knee injury last week.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis stepped in and propelled the Patriots to a 38-30 victory over the Buffalo Bills in Gillette Stadium. The undrafted and seldom-used running back rushed 16 times for 98 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that virtually ended the game.

"No matter who goes down, the train has to keep rolling," Green-Ellis said. "So everybody has to go out and do their part."

Green-Ellis went into Sunday with only 52 carries over his previous 18 games dating to November 2008.

ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss charted Green-Ellis for 23 of the Patriots' 68 offensive plays, more than any other back.

"He gets it downhill," Patriots center Dan Koppen said. "He finds what's there to get and keeps positive yards. He's a great running back to block for."

Another undrafted runner, Danny Woodhead, had a big game in his Patriots debut with three carries for 42 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown.

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