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Wednesday, March 21, 2012
'The Law Firm' brings reliability to Bengals

By Jamison Hensley

The Cincinnati Bengals added youth, security and some punch around the goal line Wednesday when they reached a three-year agreement with former New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, a free agent.

What stands out about Green-Ellis?

His age. He's 26 years old, three years younger than the running back he's replacing, Cedric Benson.

His dependability. Green-Ellis has not turned the ball over in a span of four NFL seasons, which covers 53 games played and 510 rushing attempts. But you probably should expect such reliability from a running back nicknamed "The Law Firm." This is an improvement over Benson, who fumbled five times in two December games last season.

His ability to hammer the ball across the goal line. Green-Ellis led the Patriots with 24 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons. As a team, Cincinnati totaled 18 rushing touchdowns over that same span.

When free agency began, the favorite to go to the Bengals was Oakland running back Michael Bush, a Louisville native who offers more versatility than Green-Ellis because he is a weapon in the running and passing games. The Bengals instead went with Green-Ellis, who visited the team a day before Bush. The Patriots and the New York Jets both had expressed interest in Green-Ellis.

There's also little wear-and-tear with Green-Ellis, who has never carried the ball more than 229 times in a season. And he's not expected to be a workhorse for the Bengals. He will likely share carries with backup Bernard Scott and perhaps a rookie draft pick in a running back by committee. One reason the Bengals parted ways with Benson was his reluctance to split carries.

For the best scouting report on Green-Ellis, I defer to the Patriots expert, ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, who provided this analysis to the AFC North blog:
"Green-Ellis was a reliable player for the Patriots. Ball security was never a concern -- he simply doesn't fumble -- and his hard-charging running inside the red zone was another top asset. He isn't a breakaway threat, but offensive linemen often talked about how much they liked having him behind them because he's efficient, patient and takes what is there for him.

"Green-Ellis is an excellent locker-room presence who worked his way up from rookie free agent, to special teams contributor, to lead back. He played 34 percent of the team's offensive snaps last season, teaming with Danny Woodhead (33 percent) to form a 1-2 combination in an offense that skewed heavier to the pass. The Patriots drafted Shane Vereen (second round) and Stevan Ridley (third round) last year, so they're ready to turn a big part of the position over to the youngsters. One other thought: This isn't a player who will get comfortable now that he has signed a new contract. If anything, it will drive him harder to prove he's worth the investment."