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New England Patriots Links 7/14/10 - Lombardi: Patriots Youngsters Need To Produce

<em>BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushes in for a pre-season touchdown against the NY Giants in '09</em>.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushes in for a pre-season touchdown against the NY Giants in '09.

Michael Lombardi analyzes the AFC and where the Patriots stand.

I laugh when people say the Patriots' window is closing fast as Tom Brady gets older. Are you kidding me? The Patriots are a team in transition, but their window is not closing. In fact, it is getting wider as they keep surrounding Brady with young talent. However, the Patriots need their young players to get tougher -- they need their team to get tougher. Last season, New England allowed its opponents to score every time they were first-and-goal inside the 5-yard line -- every time. Last year, the Patriots had chances to win games in the final drive, but turned the ball over and finished 1-3 in games decided by three points or fewer. Their window is still open, but the youngsters better start to produce.

Andy Hart answers reader questions regarding the Patriots linebackers, running backs and more.

All this talk of Harvey Unga has me wondering, who from last year’s committee will be left behind if we did sign him. Most definitely will not be Kevin Faulk and most likely will not be Maroney, Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris, which leaves BenJarvus Green-Ellis. I liked what I saw of him initially two seasons ago, then he was a complete non-factor last year, even with Taylor banged up. Was there any reason for this? Did he take a backward step in his development? Will he struggle to make the roster even without Harvey Unga in the mix?

I’ve never been enamored or intrigued by Green-Ellis. I think he would fall under the category of he is what he is. To me, that’s a bottom of the running back depth chart player. I don’t think he has much upside, but I feel quite comfortable giving him the ball and expecting him to pretty much maximize his chances. Assuming the team doesn’t add another back (I’m all for drafting Unga so I can yell "Unga Bunga!" every time he touches the ball.), I think Green-Ellis has a pretty good shot to stick around. He’ll be a bottom-of-the-roster guy, but given the injury histories of guys like Maroney, Morris and Taylor as well as the uncertainty of the future at the position, I’d like to have the Law Firm as an insurance policy. I can’t really explain his lack of carries last season, other than the fact that starter Maroney stayed pretty healthy. Green-Ellis was active for 12 games, but only carried the ball in six of those contests. He never had more than seven carries, although he did average 4.4 yards a carry on his 26 attempts for the season. The bulk of his work did come in the middle of the season when both Morris and Taylor were sidelined with injuries. The bottom line is that in a five-man committee backfield Green-Ellis is clearly option No. 5.