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Green-Ellis to Bengals; what next?

3/21/2012

With BenJarvus Green-Ellis agreeing to a three-year deal with the Bengals, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Patriots lose a sure-handed power runner who excelled in the red zone.

As for where the team goes from here, the spotlight shines brighter on 2011 third-round pick Stevan Ridley and 2011 second-round pick Shane Vereen.

Ridley flashed lead-back potential at times during the 2011 season, but also saw his playing time reduced late in the year because of ball-security concerns. Ridley is more dynamic than Green-Ellis, but with Green-Ellis, ball security was never an issue because he simply didn't fumble.

In addition to Ridley, the Patriots have the speedy Vereen (limited to 25 snaps, in part because of injuries, as a rookie) and "passing back" Danny Woodhead atop the depth chart.

The running back snaps broke down this way in 2011:

Green-Ellis -- 34 percent

Woodhead -- 33 percent

Ridley -- 14 percent

Kevin Faulk -- 6.5 percent

Vereen -- 1.9 percent

The Patriots didn't select Ridley and Vereen with high draft picks with the intention of having them in reduced roles.

Green-Ellis' departure highlights the importance of their development.