Bill Belichick has made no secret of his love and admiration for running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
"The Law Firm" far exceeded expectations last season when he became the first Patriots running back since 2004 to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season, and his bruising playing style, coupled with his ability to hold on to the football, makes him one of the most reliable players who can be found throughout the entire roster.
But this does not mean he possesses the most talent.
Green-Ellis will certainly be the starter on opening day, but with the plethora of talent the Patriots have at the position, it is very unlikely he will match his totals from last season.
This became evident Saturday night when Green-Ellis was only able to muster up 18 yards on eight carries. The reason for such a poor performance was because of the way in which he plays the game.
His power-running style was ineffective against a Detroit defense that continued to stack the box against the Patriots after Brady was unable to get anything going through the air. And unfortunately Green-Ellis does not possess the speed or versatility to be a big-play threat out of the backfield, often hindering what the Patriots are able to do against stout run-defenses.
Danny Woodhead is a much smaller, yet much more versatile running back who is able to help the Patriots in the passing game as well when the ground game is ineffective. Though he was able to gain 28 yards on just four carries against the Lions, it was actually his 21 yards receiving that should make Green-Ellis start to sweat a little.
Furthermore, rookie running back Stevan Ridley (who was actually inactive Saturday night) has been one of the most impressive rookies so far in the preseason. He also possesses great versatility that could help him push Green-Ellis for some serious playing time.
There is no doubt Green-Ellis will still be counted on quite heavily by the Patriots this season, especially in short-yardage and goal-line situations. But it would be very surprising to see him match his numbers from last season, and he could soon force Belichick to make him the third man in line at running back if he cannot demonstrate an ability to be more than just a wrecking ball.