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Samsonite Make Your Case

The Patriots running game has been a bit inconsistent, and one reason may be the team's preference for using multiple backs. Maybe it's time to hand the reins to one guy.


The Patriots offense rebounded nicely in Philadelphia with an explosive performance after a few weeks of slow starts and sporadic production. Tom Brady and the passing game were in full gear, but the running game staggered a bit with neither BenJarvus Green-Ellis nor any other member of the team's backfield committee able to muster much on the ground.

In a search for more balance, perhaps it's time to go with one back instead of trying to spread to load out. Green-Ellis is a guy who usually gets better as his carries pile up, so perhaps allowing him to take the reins could lead to some increased production on the ground.

With that in mind this week's Samsonite Make Your Case asks ...

Is it time to turn the running game over to BenJarvus-Green-Ellis?

PFW's Andy Hart says ...
With five running backs, the load in the backfield has been greatly split amongst the committee members this season. At times it's worked, like with Stevan Ridley's big day in Oakland against the Raiders. But more often than not it's led to a disjointed ground effort that's not producing at a high enough rate to balance out the offense in any legitimate way.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is the returning 1,000-yard rusher and starter. But he's only had four games with more than 14 carries at this point. Part of that is because in any given week guys like Danny Woodhead, Ridley, Kevin Faulk or, now, Shane Vereen can get half dozen or more carries. Many times at least two of those four get more than a handful of touches.

It's fine to spread the wealth and go with the hot hand. But no one has really been hot in recent weeks. It's time to get back to Mr. Consistency, Benny. Every game this year that he's gotten at least 15 carries he's had at least 70 yards and averaged better than 4.1 a carry. That's better than his 3.9-yard average for the year. Give him a chance to wear down some defenses, get in a rhythm with his linemen and put forth productive days on the ground.

A year ago he totted the rock more than 14 times on nine occasions. Seven of those games came in the final eight games of the season. And Green-Ellis averaged better than 4 yards a carry every time.

Benny may not be Adrian Peterson or some elite back, but he's a proven, productive runner. He needs his touches. And while everyone is clamoring for a third receiver to stretch the field, another way to open up the deep part of the field is to suck the safeties up to the line with a solid running game and improved play-action attack. Let Green-Ellis make that happen.

It's time to shorten the bench in the backfield, so to speak, and go with your lead back. Get Green-Ellis more than 15 carries, give the offensive line a chance to fire out and blow people off the ball. It will help the offense balance out. It will help in pass protection. It will help the play-action passing game. And it could help the team win in January. More than putting up pass happy statistics, isn't that the goal?
- AH

PFW's Paul Perillo says ...

I like the Patriots penchant for using multiple backs. I think it keeps everyone fresh and involved while keeping opposing defenses off guard preparing for different styles. Now, if the team had Adrian Peterson, my thoughts would change. But with all due respect to Benny, he's not Adrian Peterson.

I understand the idea behind feeding a guy the ball. Lots of running backs feel they're much better on carries 11-20 than they usually are on carries 1-10. They get in the flow of the game and start to wear down the defense and therefore their production starts to increase.

The problem is I just don't feel Green-Ellis is one of those backs. I like the way Bill Belichick mixes things up and uses backs with different strengths. Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen provide different elements than Green-Ellis and Stevan Ridley. And Ridley specifically offers more of a big-play threat than Green-Ellis.

I want Belichick to continue to use them all and take advantage of the matchups he feels are most advantageous.

Now it's the fans turn to cast their vote in the Samsonite Make Your Case poll.

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