FOXBORO, Mass. — This was a worst-case scenario for Laurence Maroney.
The Patriots running back play a single snap during Thursday night's preseason game against the Rams, and his future in New England looks as bleak as ever. If the Patriots only keep four of their top-five running backs — the feeling here is they will, due to a more significant need of depth at other positions on the roster — Maroney is starting to look like the odd man out.
Sammy Morris got the start against the Rams and had five carries for 12 yards. No, Morris' stats weren’t anything to shake a stick at, but his hardnosed running and ability to play fullback make him a valuable commodity.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis has gotten plenty of reps throughout the preseason and built some steam after his solid outing in the opener against the Saints. Fred Taylor also ran strong — much stronger than expected — against the Falcons. And then there's third-down extraordinaire Kevin Faulk, who is royalty in Bill Belichick's kingdom.
Maroney, on the other hand, has been sleeping on a rusty cot in Belichick's doghouse, and the head coach has given no indication this preseason that Maroney has been able to find his way out.
The fifth-year running back hasn’t sniffed the field since he worked with the backups in the preseason opener, and if he was ever going to get a legitimate shot to prove his worth with the first-team offense before roster cuts, Thursday was that last opportunity.
Yet, Maroney sat on the sideline in full pads with no date to the dance.
Belichick was vague when he was asked about Maroney's lack of involvement after the game.
"Yeah, we never had the ball," Belichick said.
So, would he have gotten into the game if the Patriots had a greater time of possession?
"We never had the ball," Belichick responded. "We didn’t have any plays to run on offense."
So, the plan was to play Maroney tonight if the offense had the ball?
"We would have played everybody," Belichick said.
Belichick was most certainly right about one thing. The Patriots only had the ball for 16 minutes and 14 seconds. It takes longer than that to get out of the parking lot after the game.
And New England's running backs only had 11 total carries against the Rams, partly due to the Patriots' early deficit and also because of their general ineffectiveness on the ground. However, Maroney never stepped onto the field to even play the role of decoy. Then, when the Patriots were attempting to run out the clock with a 35-33 lead in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, they turned to Green-Ellis.
Seriously, if the Patriots truly wanted to get a look at Maroney, Belichick knew that was going to be the one and only shot for the remainder of the game.
Maroney, a first-round pick in 2006, hasn’t missed any time in practice, so there's no reason to believe he was held out due to injury. There's really only one way to read into this: Maroney's stock has absolutely plummeted, and his chances to make the team are as slim as ever.