Pats top two picks tout big-play capabilities

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson hope they can give the New England Patriots offense more big play capability.

The team’s first two selections in last weekend’s draft have the ability to score from anywhere on the field.

Maroney, taken 21st overall, became the first running back at Minnesota to start his career with three straight 1,000-yard seasons. He had runs of 80 and 93 yards while playing for the Gophers, the latter for a touchdown against Wisconsin last season.

He disobeyed orders on that run, cutting back against an over-pursuing defense even though Minnesota coach Glen Mason doesn’t like that style, he said.

“I was looking at him like, I hope he doesn’t say anything,”‘ Maroney said with a laugh. “He can’t say anything. I scored.”

Jackson, a second-round receiver from Florida, averaged only 10.2 yards per catch for the Gators last season. However, he said that was a result of coach Urban Meyer’s offense, which utilized him in the slot.

“I’m more of an outside receiver,” said Jackson, one of the fastest players in the draft. “I like to go deep and use my speed, come across the middle and make big plays.”

Jackson averaged a school-record 22.3 yards per catch as a sophomore and had plays of 80 and 81 yards for the Gators. He is only the third player in school history to produce two receptions of 80 or more yards.

Jackson said his best asset is “my ability to make things happen after the catch, turn little five-yard routes into 20-yard gains and hopefully touchdowns.”

Maroney and Jackson both have a chance to make an immediate impact with an offense with plenty of question marks.

Running back Corey Dillon, who turns 32 this season, is coming off injury that resulted in a subpar year. After former Super Bowl MVP Deion Branch, the Patriots are thin at receiver with the loss of David Givens, who signed with Tennessee as a free agent.

During his first two seasons at Minnesota, Maroney shared time in the backfield before becoming the No. 1 option as a junior last year. He said he wouldn’t mind if Dillon got most of the carries this season.

“I came into a situation in Minnesota where I had two great backs in front of me, and I just really took the back seat and learned and waited for my time,” Maroney said. “It’s the same thing I’m thinking about doing here.”

Jackson could contend for a starting job since free agent Reche Caldwell, a backup in San Diego, is his main competition. At 6-foot-1, 202 pounds, Jackson provides a height contrast to the 5-9 Branch.

“I feel like I can come in and contribute to the team in any way I can,” Jackson said. “I’m not expecting anything right now. I’m not expecting to take any spots (away from someone else) or anything like that.”

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