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Breaking Down the Backfield

Posted By Robert Washburn On Jun 3 2012 @ 1:13 pm In New England Patriots | No Comments

With the loss of BenJarvus Green-Ellis this year, the question remains: Who is going to get the most touches out of the backfield? Now, the Pats have used the back by committee approach for the last couple of years and will most likely stick to this approach. Green-Ellis accounted for 34 percent of playing time for all backs last season. This is going to be a big gap for Bill Belichick to fill with the current backs on the roster.

The backs currently on the roster are: Stevan Ridley (2nd year), Danny Woodhead (5th year), Joseph Addai (7th year), Shane Vereen (2nd year), and Brandon Bolden (undrafted rookie free agent).

Last season, BenJarvus Green-Ellis totaled 667 yards and 11 touchdowns on 181 carries, giving him a 3.7 yard per carry average.  He also contributed with nine receptions for 159 yards, which included a 53 yard reception in the last game of the season against Buffalo. All of the touchdowns scored by Green-Ellis last season were less than four yards, except for a 16 yard score against the Chargers in week two.

The addition of Joseph Addai, who will most likely fulfill the role of Green-Ellis, will add some experience to the locker room and help out the remaining core of young backs the Pats have assembled. Addai has had six seasons in the Peyton Manning offense in which he was a goal line rusher, similar to Green-Ellis with the Pats. Addai started his career with two 1,000 yard seasons and has progressively had a decrease in his production over the following four years. He played in 12 games last season for his worst production year since entering the league in 2006.

Another promising young back, returning for his second season as a Patriot, is Stevan Ridley. With only 87 attempts last season, Ridley amounted 441 yards on the ground for one 33 yard touchdown last season. Ridley also had all five of the Patriots rushes over 20 yards for the season. At 5’11″ and 225 pounds, Ridley provides the speed and quickness that is needed in a feature back, but also has that same power that everyone loved in Green-Ellis. However, Ridley had a small problem holding onto the ball with four fumbles last season. Now compared to the rest the league that is not a terrible statistic, but in Bill Belichick’s mind, it was enough to keep Ridley out of the postseason last year.

With Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen, both backs will be solid third down options, while Addai will most likely be used to compliment Stevan Ridley in goal line situations. Addai, if he can remain healthy, will also likely be used alongside Danny Woodhead in screen formations or pass plays in the red zone. With the return of Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator, it will be interesting to see how much he will bring back the screen plays, considering his last tour with the Patriots in which he favored the screen plays in short yardage situations.

[1] As for newcomer Brandon Bolden, (if you look past the suspensions at Ole Miss) he is talented back with real potential. We can expect a powerful back who will break arm tackles and probably knock down the first defender a couple of carries a game. He has shown patience in waiting for his blockers and has shown the decisiveness to hit the hole as an inside runner. With the ability to run laterally, as well as, up field he should be able to beat some defenders to the perimeter.

As the running backs looks on a whole, it could be a productive year in the backfield by committee game plan. If Stevan Ridley is given enough carries, it is possible for him to be a featured back in this league. Having Addai to compliment him in goal line situations should provide a good one-two against most defenses in the league. Brandon Bolden should provide some excitement out of the backfield, as long as he keeps his nose clean and stays focused on football. After the completion of OTAs, we will revisit the backfield and see where Bill Belichick and company have placed everyone on the depth chart and why.

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