The Patriots allowed The Law Firm of BenJarvus Green-Ellis to relocate to Cincinnati during the offseason. Green-Ellis will never be confused with Adrian Peterson, but he was very dependable, tough and productive during his time in New England. The competition to replace Green-Ellis as the Patriots' starter is between Ridley and Vereen -- both second-day picks in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Ridley saw significantly more playing time than Vereen last season, despite being selected a round later than the former University of California running back. Ridley, an LSU product, finished the 2011 campaign with 441 yards rushing, while Vereen managed a meager total of 57 yards on the ground. Each of them accounted for one rushing touchdown on the season.
Ridley seems to be the favorite to win the job, but I wouldn't rule out Vereen just yet. His failure to see the field in 2011 was largely the result of a nagging hamstring injury. He is a more explosive runner than Ridley and has excellent hands out of the backfield. The Patriots are never going to be a run-first team as long as Tom Brady is under center, but the emergence of one of these runners would make this offense even tougher to defend.
Dan Hanzus (NFL.com) New England Patriots' secondary could go either way. It depends on how you look at it.
An optimistic person sees a unit loaded with potential. Devin McCourty showed in his rookie year that he could be a dynamic Pro Bowl talent. Ras-I Dowling has all the physical tools to handle the other corner. No one in the NFL had more than the seven interceptions Kyle Arrington snagged in 2011. Sterling Moore had the biggest play of the season when he knocked the ball out of Baltimore Ravens receiver Lee Evans' hands in the AFC Championship Game. Draft picks Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner and Alfonzo Dennard add depth to the unit.
But the pessimist sees trouble. McCourty is coming off a lost season in which he was eventually moved to safety midstream. Dowling struggled with injuries at Virginia, then saw his rookie season wiped out by more physical issues. As for the draft picks, only second-round selection Wilson comes with immediate expectations.
- Michael Fabiano (NFL.com) Fantasy outlook: Patriots. (1 min. video)
- Tom E. Curran notes the Hightower signing eliminates contract drama at Camp this year.
- Jeff Howe takes a closer look at Aaron Hernandez and the debate between tight end and wide receiver.
- Tom E. Curran looks at prospective Training Camp battles: Safeties Steve Gregory vs. Tavon Wilson.
- Mike Rodak analyzes players on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012: CB Alfonzo Dennard.
- Mike Reiss highlights a Sirius XM NFL radio interview with DE Andre Carter, who is camp-ready and waiting for a call.
- ESPN Boston reports Matt Light will be joining ESPN as an NFL analyst.
- Field Yates explains some of the terms used to describe players in his Scout's Notebook series.
- Jeff Howe Patriots Notebook: Patriots signed their final draft pick, locking up Dont'a Hightower with a four-year contract and a team option for a fifth year; Aaron Hernandez could make the case (with the help of the NFLPA) that he's really a WR if the Pats tried to tag him next year as a TE; Alfonzo Dennard's trial won't start until at least December.
- Brian McIntyre (NFL.com) Dont'a Hightower, New England Patriots reach deal. 4-year, $7.7 million, $6.2 million in guarantees.
- Chris Burke (SI) NFL offseason grades. Patriots: B+
- Video (ESPN) Herm Edwards gives a preseason speech to the New England Patriots. (1.46 min. video)
- Sam Farmer (LA Times) NFL officials: Quality of games could suffer with replacement officials.
- Chris Corbellini (Fox Sports) Five NFL clubs worth keeping an eye on.
- Pat Kirwan (CBS Sports) Teams getting great deals as rookie wage scale keeps salaries in check.
- John Clayton (ESPN) NFL Mailbag.
- Marc Sessler (NFL.com) Buffalo Bills fan builds Ralph Wilson Stadium of Legos. /Yeah, I'm ready for the season to start too.
- Peter Schrager (Fox Sports) Goodell awfully quiet about arrests.