FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Over the course of a year, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has developed from being an unknown kid with a long-winded, hyphenated name into a truly respected running back who adds some swagger to the New England Patriots’ loaded backfield.
“He’s given us a real big spark,” running back Kevin Faulk said. “He’s just doing what he’s been doing his whole life, and that’s playing football and having fun doing it. He’s done that since he’s been here last year. He’s impressed a lot of guys, and that’s why he’s here. The thing about being here is you’ve got to be consistent and keep doing it year in and year out. He is doing that right now.”
After a record-breaking career at Ole Miss, the Patriots signed Green-Ellis as an undrafted free agent in May 2008. It was a running joke — a lousy one at that — that his name was the combination of Ben Watson, Jarvis Green and Ellis Hobbs. But hey, that’s all anyone really knew about him.
Now, entering his second season with the Patriots, Green-Ellis is one of the team’s five running backs on the active roster, a nice improvement from starting the 2008 season on the practice squad. It’s a testament to the work ethic of the 24-year-old, a quiet kid who “does what he has to do and moves on,” according to Faulk.
The Patriots signed Green-Ellis to the active roster last October after running back Laurence Maroney suffered a broken shoulder that ended his season. The rookie had a breakout, four-game stretch when he rushed 63 times for 243 yards (3.9 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. Green-Ellis finished the year with 74 carries for 275 yards (3.7) and five scores.
Still, it was tough to measure where Green-Ellis stood in the crowded backfield heading into training camp, especially after the Patriots replaced LaMont Jordan with Fred Taylor. After Green-Ellis had team highs of 49 carries, 249 yards (5.1) and three touchdowns in four preseason games, he seemed to force the hand of New England’s coaching staff.
He capped off the preseason with 125 rushing yards and three touchdowns against the Giants, giving Bill Belichick one last look at his potential before roster cutdowns.
“When you see a guy perform the way he did the last preseason game, it was awesome,” Faulk said. “It was great to see, especially for him.”
Green-Ellis’s biggest run against the Giants came on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter. Just after he received the handoff, he shot toward a hole on the right side, broke a tackle and carried linebacker Clint Sintim on his back on the way into the end zone to give the Patriots a 31-27 lead.
“We love running backs that don’t let just one guy take him down because there is always going to be someone that’s not blocked,” Patriots left guard Logan Mankins said. “A running back that runs through the first guy and makes multiple guys take him down, that’s fun to block for.”
Even though Green-Ellis’s spot on the roster is secure for the time being, he isn’t puffing out his chest and taking it easy for a couple of days. Rather, he is continuing to impress his teammates with the hard-nosed work ethic that put him in this position to begin with.
“I’m not a person to get complacent about anything,” Green-Ellis said. “I’m always looking to improve and get better. I would be lying if I sat here and told you I felt I did OK. I always want to get better because no one is going to have a perfect day. You’re always going to have something you can get better at.”