The Patriots least famed position over the past decade has certainly been the running back position. With Kevin Faulk set for retirement, the only other question mark in the backfield goes to Benjarvus Green-Ellis. Green-Ellis has proven himself to be a consistent runner for the Pats and I expect him to re-sign here in the New England. I think Benjarvus knows his value is at its peak here in New England because of the mixture of players they throw out there every Sunday. The Pats also have Woodhead, Ridley, and Vereen under contract going into next season and seeing as the latter two were both 2011 draft picks I don’t expect this to be a position the Patriots address on draft day. There’s a slight possibility the Pats could try to pick up a veteran back but I also don’t see that happening if they keep Green-Ellis. If for some reason they let Green-Ellis walk, then you can expect the Pats to take a look at some of these options…
Peyton Hillis – Hard Runner, coming off a very tough season. Could be a low-risk high reward signing.
Cedric Benson – This is definitely a stretch for the Pats, but at the same time I don’t expect him to be in Cincy next year.
Ryan Grant – Not really an every down back anymore but can certainly take over Green-Ellis’ roll at a similar price.
Up second today is the running back position for both teams. Usually I include stats in my comparison articles but when it comes to how both these teams use their running backs, and the depth they both have I just don’t think stats are a key factor in determining their talent.
The Giants have a great combination of size and speed in the backfield. Bradshaw is a hard runner with solid speed. A couple of years back he was second in line to Brandon Jacobs but that certainly is not the case anymore. Last season Bradshaw became more of the feature back with Jacobs coming in during goal line and short yardage situations. Brandon Jacobs possesses size that is a rarity at the running back position. Jacobs being stuffed behind the line of scrimmage for a loss is something that is difficult to achieve. He is bigger than your average linebacker and even if you are lucky enough to bring him down, he’s going to pick up the extra two yards almost every time. Although the Giants don’t rely on their running game too much, they certainly have the talent back there if they had to.
Overall Grade: B
The Patriots running game this year is very similar to every other year. They use a combination of guys that each have certain strengths and use them to their abilities. BenJarvus Green-Ellis has good size and never fumbles the football, and when I say never I mean he has literally never fumbled the football during his pro career. Belichick trusts Green-Ellis in the red-zone because he knows the ball is safe in his hands. Rookie Stevan Ridley has shown flashes of greatness at times this year. He’s not huge, and doesn’t have Chris Johnson like speed but he is very elusive and not easy to bring down. Now on to Danny Woodhead…Minus the fumble on the kickoff last week this guy has been a great option for the Pats. He comes in primarily on passing downs, and that helps his yard per carry ratio out a lot because when he does run the ball the defense normally isn’t expecting it. Woodhead has been a solid replacement for the aging Kevin Faulk. Overall the Patriots have a solid backfield, but just like their opponents, they don’t use it to often. My prediction is that will change this week. I expect the Patriots to come out pounding the ball to keep those Giants pass-rushers on their toes.