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With the steady BenJarvus Green-Ellis departing for greener pastures in Cincinnati, the competition for carries in New England's backfield has officially begun.
Green-Ellis made the admirable leap from undrafted free agent to starter, carrying the ball 510 times without fumbling during his four-year stint with the Patriots.
The Patriots haven't had a true lead back since Corey Dillon, instead opting for a running back-by-committee approach.
However, even with third-down back Danny Woodhead in the fold, all signs point to 2012 being the year of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen (via Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston).
Back in 2011, the Patriots passed on the chance to draft Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in Round 1 and took a two-headed approach by selecting Vereen and Ridley in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Surprisingly, it turned out to be Ridley, the 73rd overall selection, who made the bigger impact in 2011.
The former one-year starter at Louisiana State showed flashes of lead back ability, rushing for 441 yards on just 87 carries in his debut season with the Pats.
Unfortunately for the 5'11", 220-pounder, ball security issues led him straight to the bench by season's end.
Compared to Ridley, Vereen's 2011 season would definitely be one he'd like to forget.
The heir to Jahvid Best at the University of California figured to be a first-year contributor on passing downs, but a preseason hamstring injury derailed his rookie season.
When healthy, Vereen showcases the speed, agility and versatility to be a big-time contributor in New England's pass-first offense and figures to be a great complement to Ridley's tough, slashing style.
By adding six-year veteran Joseph Addai to the mix, there will be plenty of competition in the Patriots backfield.