Green-Ellis doesn't mind sharing load

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Green-Ellis doesn't mind sharing load

FOXBORO - Through 14 games, BenJarvus Green-Ellis has 635 yards on 171 carries. That 3.7 average and the fact two games remain pretty much rule out the possibility of the hard-running BJGE reaching 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year. He's run for 50 yards. In his past three games. Only once did he top 100 yards (136 against the Jets) and he's only carried more than 20 times once (also against the Jets). Last season, the Patriots running game and BJGE were more impactful. Beginning November 14 in Pittsburgh, he ran for 87, 96, 59, 82, 87, 38, 104 and 80. He didn't have a YPC average under 4 yards in any of those games. What's changed? Well, one element is the number of balls directed to a full strength Wes Welker and a blossoming Rob Gronkowski. They have been the surest thing in the Patriots offense. Additionally, there hasn't been much bang from the running game in general this season. Danny Woodhead ran for 547 yards and averaged 5.6 yards per carry. This year, he's got 326 and is averaging 4.5. Sunday in Denver was a departure from that. Green-Ellis, Woodhead and rookie Stevan Ridley combined for 132 yards. The running back by committee approach the Patriots have used all year finally showed real dividends. When this three-headed monster was mentioned to Green-Ellis, he interrupted. "Four. Kevin (Faulk) played too. Ok, four-headed monster. "Five, actually.When Shane's back there," Green-Ellis added, referring to another rookie, Shane Vereen. Okay, five. However you slice it, thecarries are being shared. Wouldn't it beuseful sometimes for one back to get his mojoworking instead of guys being shuffled in and out?"Whatever it is, we're just gonna go out there and try to win the game," he shrugged. "That's the ultimate goal. From the backfield standpoint, all five of us are ready to go out there and contribute to get a W."It doesn't so much help the numbers though, does it?"This is not an individual sport," Green-Ellis smiled. "This is not golf or tennis or anything like that. When it's a team sport, you have to do what's best for the team but as an individual, what's best for the team, you do. End of story."

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track. 

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.