|Where does the Patriots’ ground attack go from here without BenJarvus Green-Ellis?||03.21.12 at 4:32 pm ET|
The departure of running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis — who agreed a three-year deal with the Bengals on Wednesday — likely means the focus of the Patriots’ running game will shift to the young running back duo of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in 2012.
The ultra-reliable Green-Ellis has been new England’s primary ground gainer the last two seasons, but the duo of Ridley and Vereen showed an occasional flash last season, with Ridley having the better 2011. The LSU product had 87 carries for 441 yards (an impressive 5.1 yards per carry average) and one touchdown as a rookie. However, he had fumbles in back-to-back games late in the year, and those ball-security issues likely led to the fact that he was a healthy scratch in the AFC championship game against Baltimore.
As for Vereen, he struggled with a hamstring injury at the start of the season and never really managed to get on track. In the end, he was limited to 26 snaps (according to Pro Football Focus) and finished the season with 15 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown.
When it comes to the rest of the running backs, the Patriots will bring back Danny Woodhead, who is considered more of a third-down back in the mold of Kevin Faulk. Then, there’s also the possibility that Faulk returns — the veteran running back has floated the idea of retirement, but that’s still up in the air at this point. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England perhaps kick the tires on a veteran free agent between now and the start of camp.
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