CINCINNATI – It’s not hard seeing why BenJarvus Green-Ellis was a good fit as a New England Patriot. It’s why Marvin Lewis believes he’s a perfect fit for the Bengals. There is nothing over-the-top about Green-Ellis. He’s steady, professional and goes about his business of being an NFL running back.
So when he’s asked about playing his former team for the first time this weekend, a team that is 4-0 and has one of the NFL’s Quarterback Elite in Tom Brady, there is no hint of the game holding any more meaning for Green-Ellis than another chance to play another team and possibly get another win. The Bengals could use a win after last week’s 17-6 loss at Cleveland dropped them to 2-2.
“The only difference is I know some of the guys and they know me as well,” said Green-Ellis. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, but when you lose you want to get that taste out of your mouth. You want to come back and play well and go out and achieve a W.”
Green-Ellis is all business.
He spent the first four years of his NFL career in New England. He had two good seasons in college at Mississippi after transferring from Indiana, rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a junior and senior, but went undrafted. The Patriots signed him as a college free agent and gave him an opportunity. He played mostly special teams but had a handful of snaps on offense. His role grew his third season and he became a 1,000-yard back with a nose for the goal line.
“He really worked his way up the ladder. Lot of hard work, very dedicated and a tough football player,” said New England coach Bill Belichick.
If there is anything Green-Ellis takes from his days with the Patriots, it’s that they gave him that chance.
“You shape yourself and build your character in your first couple of years in the league,” said Green-Ellis. “The veteran guys kind of mentor you as well. How you go about your business is shaped when you first come into the league. That’s kind of how it happened with me. I’m formed and shaped from the things I learned there from veteran guys and coaches. The same thing when I got here. It’s a never-ending process when you’re learning.”
Green-Ellis had just six carries for 13 yards last week against the Browns, both low totals for him as a Bengal. The immergence of rookie Giovani Bernard has something to do with that role change but the running game produced little against the Browns, just 63 yards on 20 carries (four by quarterback Andy Dalton), after struggling for consistency against Green Bay the week before. It is No. 22 in the NFL, averaging just 83.8 yards per game through the first four weeks of the season.
The lack of an effective running game hurts the passing attack. No running game threat means play-action passes have less effect when it comes to causing defensive misdirection.
New England is allowing an average of 105 yards a game on the ground. The Patriots lost All-Pro defensive lineman Vince Wilfork for the season last week at Atlanta to a torn Achilles tendon. That should make the Bengals attempts at running the ball easier, but by no means easy. Veteran Tommy Kelly is the other starter, while rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones of Bowling Green, are listed as the backups.
“The guys that play behind him are doing a good job, as you can see from last week. When Vince went down they came in the game and did a good job,” said Green-Ellis. “Obviously they’re going to miss Vince, his leadership on and off the field but from a football standpoint they have guys that are ready to go.”
Green-Ellis used to be one of those unknown guys who had to be ready to go. He’s a known commodity now, but the approach to the game doesn’t change. That’s one lesson he took from Belichick that will never be forgotten.
“Never take anything for granted,” said Green-Ellis. “You always work hard no matter what the circumstances are. That’s always what I took from him.”