Ridley expected to take reins in Pats' backfield

Kevin Fishbain
AFC East Spin cycle: Week Four

BenJarvus Green-Ellis is now a Bengal, and the Patriots suddenly have a hole at running back.

Green-Ellis rushed for 1,008 yards in 2010 and took a step back in 2011, with only 667 yards, but he rushed for 24 touchdowns in the last two seasons.

The way we hear it, the team still really likes RB Stevan Ridley, even though his fumbles in back-to-back games cost him a chance to get carries in the AFC championship game and the Super Bowl. Ridley fumbled in the regular-season finale and lost a fumble in the divisional win over the Broncos.

But Ridley had some big runs during the season, averaging 5.1 yards a carry. He had five rushes that went for 20 yards or longer — no other Patriot had a 20-yard carry last season. Behind Ridley, the Patriots need to see more from Shane Vereen, who was hampered by a hamstring injury most of the season. Danny Woodhead will remain in his role, and even though his numbers took a dip from 2010, he was very effective as a receiver in the Super Bowl. We also hear that Kevin Faulk wants to return to camp and, if he’s healthy, could also contribute. It’s no secret how much Bill Belichick values Faulk in the locker room, and he could continue mentoring the young backs.

As for the draft, where the Patriots selected Ridley and Vereen last year, Belichick may target a big goal-line back to replace what Green-Ellis provided with his effectiveness in reaching paydirt.