Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis

353783.jpg

Patriots not looking to replace Green-Ellis

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

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

cowboys_dak_prescott_092516.jpg

Rookie Dak Prescott solid again, Cowboys beat Bears, 31-17

ARLINGTON, Texas - Maybe the Cowboys will be OK without quarterback Tony Romo this time. The future of the Dallas running game with Ezekiel Elliott looks pretty good, too.

Dak Prescott led scoring drives on all four Dallas possessions in the first half before throwing his first career touchdown pass in fellow rookie Elliott's first 100-yard game, and the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 31-17 on Sunday night to snap an eight-game home losing streak.

With his second straight win, Prescott doubled the number of victories the Cowboys (2-1) had in 14 games without the injured Romo over three seasons before the fourth-round pick showed up.

Prescott's first TD pass was a 17-yarder to Dez Bryant for a 31-10 lead in the fourth quarter, and he's up to 99 throws without an interception to start his career. Philadelphia's Carson Wentz has 102, and those are the two highest career-opening totals for a rookie in NFL history.

"Dak's handled every opportunity he's had right from the start really, really well," coach Jason Garrett said. "No different tonight."

Brian Hoyer had trouble moving the Chicago offense early with Jay Cutler sidelined by a sprained right thumb as the Bears fell behind 24-3 at halftime and dropped to 0-3 for the second time in two seasons under coach John Fox.

Making his 27th career start for his fourth different team, Hoyer was 30 of 49 for 317 yards - a good portion of that with the game out of each late in the fourth quarter - and threw for two scores to Zach Miller.

"We haven't played a complete game," Fox said. "This week was the reverse of what we've had. We played very poorly in the first half."

Elliott finished with 140 yards on 30 carries, including a 14-yard run when he hurdled safety Chris Prosinski. The Cowboys kept giving him the ball while trying to work the clock with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter a week after he was benched because of two fumbles in a win over Washington.

"Made a lot of good runs tonight, a lot tough runs, a lot of NFL runs," Garrett said. "He's physically tough. He's mentally tough."

It didn't even bother Prescott that Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith missed just the second game of his six-year career after his back tightened up during the week.

Prescott was 19 of 24 for 248 yards in Dallas' first home win since last year's opener, which was a week before the first of two broken left collarbones that kept Romo out of 12 games last season.

Romo is expected to miss about another month after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.

Prescott had one of three rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who have seven this season after getting eight all of last year, when they finished 4-12.

Because the Bears fell behind again, they couldn't do much with the running game. They had just 15 carries for 73 yards and lost leading rusher Jeremy Langford to an ankle injury in the second half.

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

patriots_tom_brady_2_090116.jpg

Jets lose, Patriots guaranteed 1st place in AFC East when Brady returns

When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2. 

The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively. 

With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.

MORE PATRIOTS

Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.