New England Patriots Turning Running Game Over to Young Backs

By Sean Rollins

With BenJarvis Green-Ellis moving from New England to Cincinnati, the Patriots will be turning the running game over to two young running backs in Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. Green-Ellis’ contract with the Bengals is valued at $9 million over three years or $3 million per year. It wouldn’t have been too much for the Patriots to re-sign Green-Ellis who accumulated 181 rushes for 667 yards in 2011. However, it seems that the Patriots are ready to turn the running game over to new backs.

The likely starter for the Patriots in 2012 will be Stevan Ridley. Of the two running backs with experience the Patriots have returning, Ridley had the majority of the carries in 2011. Shane Vereen only had 15 attempts for 57 yards in 2011 while Ridley had 87 attempts for 441 yards. With Ridley’s performance, head coach Bill Belichick clearly feels he can fill the shoes of Green-Ellis.

While Ridley will get the majority of the carries, it won’t just be those two players carrying the ball out of the backfield. The Patriots have many wrinkles in their playbook which allow different players to attempt unusual roles. One of these roles is tight end Aaron Hernandez playing halfback. Giving Hernandez the ball out of the backfield was some briefly seen in 2011.

Hernandez carrying the ball as a running back is something likely to be seen more in 2012 than last season after some of the moves made during free agency which included signing receivers Brandon Lloyd and Donte Stallworth. New England used Hernandez and fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski a lot in the passing game in 2011 due to the team’s lack of depth at receiver. However, with the moves made so far this offseason that is likely to change.

The departure of BenJarvis Green-Ellis to Cincinnati means there will be a change in the New England Patriots backfield. The Patriots running game will rest on the young running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley likely with help from tight end Aaron Hernandez. While the running game will now be placed on somewhat unproven backs, it probably will not make too much of a difference with Tom Brady’s newest options at receiver.

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