Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Patriots are still fine at running back
By James Walker
The New England Patriots lost their leading rusher for the past two years -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- to the Cincinnati Bengals. Green-Ellis agreed to a three-year contract with Cincinnati on Wednesday.
But the reigning AFC champions viewed Green-Ellis as expendable. The Patriots drafted a pair of running backs in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen last year, and both have a lot of potential. New England also has change-of-pace tailback Danny Woodhead who can help on third down and passing situations.
The Patriots should be fine with this trio of rushers. Talent is not a concern, just inexperience. Ridley and Vereen both showed flashes, but Green-Ellis was so sure-handed that he was the tailback head coach Bill Belichick trusted most. New England used Green-Ellis and Woodhead almost exclusively in the playoffs, when the season was on the line.
New England has the option of signing an affordable free agent or adding another rookie to the pile in the draft. But it looks like Ridley, a 2011 third rounder, is the favorite to be the starter next season. Woodhead and Vereen may both play supporting roles for a team that probably will throw 60 percent of the time anyway.
Quarterback Tom Brady, receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will be the stars of New England's offense. The young running backs just have to complement the passing game by making the most of their carries and not fumbling.