The Patriots are a pass-happy team, and that's likely to continue in 2012. However, that doesn't mean that the running back position won't be integral to their offense, and might even become a team strength due to its depth.
With BenJarvus Green-Ellis leaving New England to sign with the Bengals this offseason, the Patriots will need to decide how to divide up the touches in the running game. Who they will turn to is very much up in the air, and training camp could go a long way in deciding who Bill Belichick trusts with the most playing time.
Danny Woodhead has been a steady producer for the Patriots ever since they picked him up from the New York Jets. Last season, Woodhead rushed for 351 yards on only 77 attempts, good for a 4.6 average yards per carry. His impact was also felt in the passing attack, with 18 catches for 157 yards. However, he only scored one touchdown (rushing) during the 2011 regular season.
The team's two second-year running backs, however, may very well end up passing over Woodhead for a chance to be the featured back. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen could prove themselves ready for prime time come Week 1, after solid rookie campaigns proving their worth. Ridley appeared in every one of the team's 16 regular season games in 2011, rushing 87 times for 441 yards and one touchdown. Vereen, on the other hand, only appeared in five games, gaining 57 yards on the ground with 15 attempts.
With Green-Ellis no longer in the mix, Tom Brady's going to need somebody to hand the ball off to. And given a healthy stable of backs to choose from, the competition is heating up to see who will get the most touches this year.