BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the odd running back out on New England’s depth chart through the first quarter of the season, but with Fred Taylor on the shelf recovering from ankle surgery, Green-Ellis is in the mix again.
The second-year back is ready to make the most of another opportunity.
As a rookie in 2008, Green-Ellis started a handful of games (when Laurence Maroney went down with a shoulder injury) and opened some eyes with his hard-running style and toughness. He had a 100-yard day against the Bills and appeared in nine contests overall, rushing for 275 yards on 74 carries and scoring five touchdowns. He also showed some versatility, catching three passes for 37 yards.
Now he hopes to contribute again.
After being pass-heavy in the first two games of the season, the Patriots have gotten back to running the ball and having a balanced attack. In the win over the Falcons, the Patriots rushed the ball 39 times for 168 yards and passed 42 times for 277 yards. In the win over the Ravens, the Patriots rushed 30 times for 85 yards and passed 32 times for 234 yards.
Taylor had 40 percent of those carries the past two weeks. Somebody is going to have to pick up the slack on New England’s running back committee.
The jury is still out on Maroney. While he wants to live up to the hype, he hasn’t proven that he won’t crumple like a Dixie cup upon contact this season.
Sammy Morris has made an impact when he’s been on the field, Kevin Faulk remains Mr. Utility, and both will continue to get their touches.
But now there also is room on the 45-man roster for Green-Ellis. He no longer has to stand on the sidelines in street clothes on Sundays. He will be in uniform, and he could turn out to be an X factor.
Maroney, Morris and Faulk already have had a chance to show what they can do this season. Green-Ellis is chomping at the bit for his shot. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder is not as big as Taylor (6-1, 228), but Green-Ellis could be the back that most closely resembles the veteran. Green-Ellis is strong, quick off the ball and hits holes hard. He can break arm tackles and has the potential to be an effective short-yardage back. If some plays are called for him, he could rack up some yardage.
This is the way it’s always been for Green-Ellis. Nothing has come easy. He’s always had to work a little harder for everything he’s ever got. His road to the NFL wasn’t paved with gold — more like lined with potholes. He went undrafted out of Mississippi (after transferring from Indiana following his sophomore year), signed as free agent with the Patriots, earned a spot on the practice squad and saw some action last season.
He’s never been the high-profile, can’t-miss prospect in the spotlight. He’s always been fighting and clawing for a job. Such a mindset keeps a player hungry. When he steps on the field, he is not going to take anything for granted or be complacent.
That might explain why Green-Ellis runs as hard as he does. After biding his time this season, he’s in position to get on the gridiron and help the Patriots keep the pressure on defenses.
Now, Green-Ellis just needs Bill Belichick to call his number. Then, the Law Firm can make a name for himself.
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