Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis


Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis

By A. Sherrod Blakely 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 Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars


THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Titans roll to 36-22 victory over Jaguars

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.

Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.

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Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up


Develin stays on top of tight end techniques in case he's next man up

FOXBORO -- Once the Patriots traded AJ Derby to the Broncos for a fifth-round pick earlier this week, they were left with just two tight ends on their roster. While those two tight ends -- Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett -- have played as two of the best tight ends in football this season, it's a position group that has been considerably thinned. 

Until coach Bill Belichick adds another player at that spot, James Develin would be the logical "next man up." A position group unto himself as the team's lone active fullback -- the other fullback in the locker room is practice-squad player Glenn Gronkowski -- Develin meets with Patriots tight ends and coach Brian Daboll on a daily basis because the fullback and tight-end responsibilities in the Patriots offense are similar, particularly in the run game.

As much time as he spends with that group, Develin tries to absorb what he can when it comes to the nuances of the position. 

"I always kind of try to prepare, obviously, for my fullback role, but then in any other role that I might be called upon for," Develin said on Thursday. "A couple years ago, we had a bunch of injuries during the offseason program, during OTAs, and I filled in a little bit at tight end. I try to keep myself familiar with all those techniques and that tight end role so if the day were to come where I needed to go out there and do it, I'd be able to go out there and do it."

When the Patriots began the season relying more on the run, Develin was called upon to play a relatively significant role in the offense. He averaged 21.3 snaps per game through the first three games of the season, but that number has fallen to 13.6 since Tom Brady's return from a four-game suspension. Still, his role can be a critical one. 

The Patriots' running game faltered last season after both Blount and Dion Lewis went down with season-ending injuries. Having Develin in the mix as an extra blocker would not have guaranteed a more efficient attack, but it may have helped the team's running-game woes late in the year. 

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels now has the luxury of bringing Develin onto the field when he wants some added muscle for his blocking schemes, and should the Patriots need a tight end in a pinch, Develin could do that too.

"A lot of times, especially in the blocking game, really the only difference [between fullback and tight end] is that I'm five yards off the ball in the backfield and they're up on the line," Develin said. "The angles are a little bit different. But a lot of times the assignment is typcially the same thing. It's just the technique of getting there and the angles that you take.

"Then in the passing game, as a tight end, there's just a lot more routes and stuff like that. I try to work on that to help me as a fullback to be a little bit better in space . . . It's a sybiotic relationship." 

As it is, Develin will line up occasionally outside. Though not a threat as a receiver in that spot in the same way that Gronkowski or Bennett would be, he understands some of the different looks tight ends have to be comfortable with.

If an emergency arose and he was asked to fill that role, he wouldn't hesitate.

"There's a little bit of carry-over depending on what we're doing or whatever play we have called where I'll line up on the line," he said. "But that's kind of what a fullback has to do. You kind of have to be able to be thrown into whatever position on the field that you gotta do and you gotta just do your job."