State of the Position is a new weekly Foxboro Blog feature that will examine the post-draft status of each position and take a look at what needs still need to be filled before the season opens up.
Today we will examine the running backs.
For the first time since the days of Corey Dillon, the Patriots featured a 1000-yard rusher.
While he doesn’t possess top-end speed, elite agility or size, former undrafted free agent BenJarvus Green-Ellis does one thing well: run hard.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder rushed for a team-high 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first season as a starter.
What’s most impressive about “The Law Firm” is his ability to make positive plays (something Laurence Maroney failed at).
BJGE averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in all but four games, highlighted by a 17-carry, 112-yard performance against Minnesota in Week 10.
Because of his lack of dynamic athleticism, he isn’t an asset on passing downs, but that’s where Danny Woodhead comes in.
The tiny Division II Heisman winner was cut by the Jets, and in true Belichick fashion, he made them pay.
Woodhead rushed for 547 yards on 97 carries (6.7 average) and five touchdowns while catching 34 passes for 379 yards.
His quickness and ability to pick up yards after contact make him invaluable in the running back rotation.
With Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor and Kevin Faulk all slated for free agency, the Patriots decided to address the running back position early in the 2011 draft.
Their second-round pick, Shane Vereen, is a player to watch this season.The former California Golden Bear is like Kevin Faulk with better running ability.
If he impresses in training camp (assuming the lockout is over in time), Vereen could take away snaps from BJGE since he offers more in the passing game.
The final back to round out the stable is third-rounder Stevan Ridley.
While I’m not a big fan of his draft position, Ridley is a grinder who could fill a BJGE-type role as a late-game finisher.
He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in the SEC last year, and is a definite goal-line and short-yardage option.
Overall, this group has a lot of versatility and each player has a definite role in the offense. If the two rookies can contribute early, this group should definitely be set up well for both the present and the future.
State of the Position Grade: B+