Christopher Price examines the Patriots running game in the post-Green-Ellis era.
Stevan Ridley: If you’re putting together a depth chart right now, the 5-foot-11, 225-pound Ridley is at the top of the list. Last season as a rookie, the 23-year-old demonstrated he has the size to consistently run between the tackles, as well as display the necessary burst to run away from defenders. He finished the year with 87 carries for 441 yards and one touchdown. (He didn’t have enough carries to qualify for a spot among the league leaders, but his 5.1 YPC would have had him tied for 10th in the league.) The late-season ball-security issues were certainly troubling, but as long as he stays away from putting the ball on the ground, there’s no reason to think that right now he’s not the lead back in the rotation.
Shane Vereen: Vereen struggled with hamstring issues at the start of the season and never really got on track. The 5-foot-9, 205-pounder out of Cal was active for just five games — occasionally due to injury, occasionally because of personnel decisions that rendered him a healthy scratch — and ended the year with 15 carries for 57 yards and a touchdown. (His season-best came in garbage time against the Chiefs when he had eight carries for 39 yards.) When he did get the ball last season, he didn’t appear to be a traditional between-the-tackles guy, but more of a speed back. He’ll be one to watch come OTA’s and training camp.
Danny Woodhead: The heir to Kevin Faulk’s third-down throne. The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Woodhead will continue to be the changeup guy for the foreseeable future out of the backfield, a multidimensional threat who can provide an occasional burst on the ground as well as in the passing game. (He was the only guy on the roster last season who was in the Top 5 on the team in rushing attempts and receptions, finishing the season with 77 carries for 351 yards and a touchdown and 18 catches for 157 yards.) Of all the backs, Woodhead will likely be the least affected by Green-Ellis’ departure. However, if Faulk decides to call it a career, Woodhead’s workload figures to increase slightly — he isn’t in the Welker/Gronkowski class when it comes to offensive dependability, but isn’t too far off.
Kevin Faulk: Eminently reliable for so many years, it’s still a question as to whether or not he’ll return for a 14th season with the Patriots. Faulk, who will turn 36 before the start of the 2012 season, has seen a lessened on-field role the last couple of years for several reasons, not the least of which includes age and a knee injury that ended the 2010 season. At the same time, he has one of the most well respected voices in the New England locker room, and if he does decide to call it a career, it will be interesting to see who fills that leadership void on the offensive side of the ball.
@TheLawFirmBJGE tweeted his appreciation to the Patriots organization and the fans of New England Thursday.
Pats Nation: First, I would like to thank Mr. Kraft and his family for giving me an opportunity to live my dream.
Many thanks to Coach Belichick and all the other coaches who help develop me in my career in New England
How many ways can I thank my dedicated fans for your heart felt love and support -THANK YOU.Its been a blessing to be a Patriot. #MHK player
- Patriots Mock Draft Tracker: Check out what the experts are predicting the Patriots will do in the first round of the Draft.
- Paul Perillo reports former Bronco FB/LB Spencer Larsen is the latest addition to the Patriots.
- Patriots Draft Party at Gillette Stadium: Thursday, April 26, 7:00 PM.
- Patriots Today - Kraft bids farewell to Green-Ellis. (1.37 min. video)
- Patriots Today - Camp Sunshine visits Gillette. (1.52 min. video)
- Karen Guregian catches up with Robert Kraft, following a Patriots Charitable Foundation event, who had a lot to say about the recent events around the league and with the team.
- Mike Reiss explains why Tom Brady restructured his contract and what it means for Brady and the Patriots.
- Ian Rapoport looks at the Dan Connolly signing and wonders if there is room for Dan Koppen.
- Mike Reiss offers his opinion on the Patriots signing Deion Branch to a 1-year deal.
- Christopher Price takes a closer look at the return of WR Deion Branch.
- Mike Reiss posts an updated projected depth chart at the wide receiver position.
- ESPNBoston reports Adam Schefter thinks Chad Ochocinco "will be back in New England next year."
Mike Reiss highlights Donte Stallworth's interview on ESPNBoston Radio, where he talks about his return to the Patriots and how things will be different this time.
- Christopher Price analyzes the Patriots' addition of versatile fullback Spencer Larsen.
- Ian Rapoport notes Rob Gronkowski and his brothers have been approached to do a reality show, but the timing just hasn't been right.
- WEEI profiles potential Patriots in the Draft: S Markelle Martin (Oklahoma State) and C Peter Konz (Wisconsin).
- Mike Petraglia labels the Jets as the biggest fools in sports.
- Chad Finn says the Jets' trade for Tim Tebow was to seize the back pages of the tabloids, but the Jets, instead, ended up in the comics.
- Chris Gasper writes the Saints' harsh sentence was more about Goodell trying to protect the NFL and its owners from the lawsuits filed against the league.
- Derrick Z. Jackson believes the NFL should vacate the tainted 2010 New Orleans championship.
- Mike Rodak posts some leftover comments from Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who spoke to reporters on Thursday.
- Ian Rapoport Patriots Notebook: Deion Branch receives a one-year deal and an opportunity to make the team in Training Camp; It's still unclear whether Matt Light will retire or return to the team for one more year; Tom Brady restructured his contract, but it's not known what the team plans to do with the extra cap space; Pats signed FB/LB Spencer Larsen, who played for Josh McDaniels in Denver.
- Jeff Howe posts his Patriots Mailbag: Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley expected to step up with departure of BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
- Mike Reiss offers the transcript of his weekly online chat. Terrific insight here as usual.
- Geoff Hobson (Bengals.com) BJGE gives tradition a run.
- Michael David Smith (ProFootballTalk) Proposed rule changes for 2012.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Instant replay could be changed, again.
- Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) Updating free agency: observations after two eventful weeks.
- Josh Alper (ProFootballTalk) Mike Tannenbaum offers more about Tim Tebow's role with Jets.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Jets can now bench Sanchez without benching him.
- Gary Myers (NY Daily News) Tim Tebow did not come to NY Jets to be a backup, thinks he can beat out Mark Sanchez for starting QB job.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Elway, Tebow differ on whether QB chose Jets.
- Chris Brown (BuffaloBills.com) Bills additions shift division landscape.
- Mike Pereira (Fox Sports) Goodell shows commitment to player safety.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Shockey wants action from league.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Senator calls for hearing on bounties.
- Jason Whitlock (Fox Sports) Ending bounties won't end violence.
- Mike Florio (ProFootballTalk) Payton, Williams can appeal, but should they?
- Wes Bunting (Nat'l Football Post) NFL Draft: Ranking the OT class by tiers.
- Evan Silva (ProFootballTalk) 2012 Mock Draft, take one. Patriots select DT Michael Brockers (LSU) and WR Brian Quick (Appalachian State).
- Staff Report (Pro Football Weekly) Top-100 free-agent tracker.