Maroney passes Broncos physical, but injury might slow him

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Moreno & Maroney might have to wait awhile.

Bruising back Laurence Maroney passed his physical with the Denver Broncos on Wednesday, 24 hours after his trade from the New England Patriots, with whom he had fallen out of favor and down the depth chart.

Maroney wasn't at the portion of Broncos practice open to the media. The team doesn't have to list his health status until Thursday, but Maroney's thigh injury could prevent him from practicing right away or providing immediate help to a banged-up Denver backfield.

What the Broncos are looking for right now is depth in case Knowshon Moreno or Correll Buckhalter go down again. So they released tailback Andre Brown, who has no NFL carries, and traded for Maroney, who has 582 carries in four seasons with the Patriots.

"We looked at it and thought, 'We're at the point where if we incur another injury to one of our top two backs, it's not that we don't have players, we just don't have a lot of players behind them that have played football in the NFL,'" said Broncos coach Josh McDaniels, who was New England's offensive coordinator before he came to Denver last season.

McDaniels also wasn't pleased with the production he got out of his ground game in Sunday's season opener, suggesting the Broncos "left a lot of yards on the field in the running game."

The Broncos rushed for 89 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries in a 24-17 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Moreno, who missed all of the preseason, gained 60 yards on 15 carries with one touchdown, and Buckhalter, who had just a handful of carries before the opener, ran six times for 15 yards and fumbled once.

Moreno's right hamstring popped on the first day of training camp, and Buckhalter's spine was jarred by a hard hit just 10 minutes later. Then a torn right Achilles' tendon in the preseason finale ended LenDale White's season.

Maroney is expected to be able to step in when his health allows because McDaniels' system borrows heavily from Patriots coach Bill Belichick's.

"I know the kid -- he's a good kid (who) can be productive in our offense," McDaniels said. "And the thigh, we're just going to see. We're going to treat it, and we'll get him ready to go as soon as he can possibly play."

The Patriots gave up on Maroney after he failed to emerge as a solid No. 1 back since he was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft out of Minnesota. He was limited to three games by a shoulder injury in 2008. In four years with New England, he rushed for 2,430 yards and 21 touchdowns and tended to run side to side rather than quickly hit openings.

Maroney was inactive Sunday for New England's season-opening victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Fred Taylor led the Patriots' rushers with 71 yards on 14 carries. They also have Sammy Morris, Kevin Faulk and BenJarvus Green-Ellis at running back.

Maroney is expected to see more carries in Colorado.

"He's a heck of a talent," said Broncos wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who played with Maroney in New England. "He's a great running back, can hit it inside, has speed to get outside and can do great things out of the backfield catching the ball. He's a real good talent; just have to get him caught up."

The Broncos are eager to see what Maroney could do for them.

"I've just seen him from afar, so I haven't been on the field with him," quarterback Kyle Orton said, "but he seems to be a physical back, a downhill type of back and a guy that's pretty explosive."

Offered wide receiver Eddie Royal: "I know he's a bigger guy, a big running back. He was a first-round pick, so you know he can play."

Asked why he believed the running back didn't live up to expectations in New England, McDaniels noted that Maroney "was the leading rusher in 2007 on a very highly productive team." And, he said, the Patriots rotate a lot of running backs, just like the Broncos do.

"I think it depends on what the expectations are that you're setting on somebody," McDaniels said. "If you're playing in an offense that uses three and four and five backs, expectations of 1,500 yards rushing probably aren't realistic. Again, this guy has a lot of football in front of him, and we're excited to have him."

Maroney's contract expires after this season, but McDaniels said the Broncos will seek an extension.

Moreno said he looked forward to splitting snaps with Maroney.

"We need people in here that can help this team out and help us win," Moreno said. "So the more, the better."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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