Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis

Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis
September 6, 2011, 6:04 pm
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By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn No moping. No pouting. Another training camp means another chance for BenJarvus Green-Ellis to prove himself.

That's essentially the way Green-Ellis has carried himself during his previous three seasons in New England. Not even a 1,000-yard season -- 1,008 for those keeping track at home -- would change that, or the fact that the Patriots used second and third round draft picks last spring on running backs.

"Bennie's a great story," said Bill O'Brien, the Pat's offensive coordinator. "I'll speak for myself. I'm not looking to replace him. He's a steady guy; he's a smart guy."

And he's well respected, in part because of the rugged terrain he had to go through in order to be in the Patriots backfield.

Following a pair of 1,000-yard seasons at Ole Miss, Green-Ellis went undrafted in 2008. When the Patriots picked him up, he quickly found out that big numbers in college don't necessarily translate at the NFL level.

Early on, Green-Ellis' biggest problem was a lack of consistency. After appearing in nine games (three starts) as a rookie in 2008, he was on the field for 12 games in 2009 followed by appearances in all 16 regular season games (11 starts) in 2010 which served as a breakout season of sorts for the 26-year-old.

But now, just like that, Green-Ellis finds himself no longer the one hunting for playing time. Instead, he's the hunted.

In addition to fellow returner Danny Woodhead, the Pats could spread carries around to Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, second and third-round picks respectively.

The Patriots haven't announced the number of carries each back is expected to to receive, but it's conceivable that Green-Ellis' role will be diminished. Even if his role is changing, O'Brien said Green-Ellis' demeanor and approach hasn't changed.

"I was always impressed with his demeanor, his steadiness and his intelligence," O'Brien said. "Playing running back in our system . . . we ask them to do a lot of things. Bennie was working on his consistency when he first came here. But he never changed his demeanor, and the way he picked up our offense was impressive to me."

One of the things the coaching staff told Green-Ellis he needed to work on was catching the ball. O'Brien has been pleased with the work Green-Ellis has put in to improving that aspect of his game.

"He does that every year, whatever you ask him to do," O'Brien said. "He tries to improve on it. He's a good guy to have on your football team."

Green-Ellis will get a chance to pick up where he left off last season when the Patriots open at Miami on Monday night.

While O'Brien says Green-Ellis has maintained a level head even with his newfound success, there's no mistaking that he's a more confident player when he steps on the field now.

"As with every player and coach, as you come into this league and you get better and better and you get used to the speed of the game and the different intricacies of the game and you have success, then your confidence grows," O'Brien said. "Bennie would definitely fall into that category."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn