Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Zero. Goose egg. Zilch.
That's the number of times Cincinnati Bengals running back BenJarvus Green- Ellis has coughed up the football in 53 career NFL games.
That's 510 carries of completely mistake-free football.
Can you grasp how utterly incredible that is? I can barely balance a lunch tray 10 seconds without spilling something, let alone hold onto a ball with a pack of 250-pound linebackers coming at me at full speed.
It's all in a day's work for the dreadlocked 27-year-old with the wacky name.
But that's not all the "Law Firm" has been up to over the last four seasons. While Green-Ellis has been plenty busy setting the gold standard in ball security, he's still had time to rack up 29 touchdowns, including 24 over the last two seasons. In fact, since 2010, only Houston's Arian Foster (26 touchdowns) has crossed the goal line more often than Green-Ellis. And that's with 195 more carries than the former Patriot.
As much as the fans in New England enjoyed saying his name, Green-Ellis was always a square peg in a round hole playing with New England. With a near endless assortment of weapons in the receiving corps (including a tight end with the body of an NBA power forward), the Patriots passed the ball on 58.3 percent of their plays last season. Only the New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions were more reliant on the pass than the Patriots were in 2011.
That left little opportunity for Green-Ellis to prove his worth, as he finished the 2011 campaign with a disappointing 667 yards on 181 carries.
But this summer, when Green-Ellis traded in his Patriots gear for Bengals orange and black, he changed his identity. Overnight, he went from a hidden back in New England's pass-first offense to a featured back on an up-and- coming Bengals squad.
Cincinnati seems to be the perfect environment for the under-appreciated Green-Ellis. While the Patriots have neglected their running game, the Bengals have shown a strong commitment to theirs by producing a 1,000-yard rusher in each of the last three seasons. Cedric Benson (now the starting halfback for the Green Bay Packers) racked up 895 carries in those three years, an average of 298.3 rushes per season. That's well above Green-Ellis' average of 205 carries per season since the start of 2010.
Just imagine the type of numbers Green-Ellis, who broke the 1,000-yard threshold for the only time in his career in 2010, could pile up with a heavier workload.
Let's use Jacksonville halfback Maurice Jones-Drew's performance as a jumping- off point. Jones-Drew carried the ball 343 times in 2011, nearly double the amount of rushes Green-Ellis (181) totaled last year. Had Green-Ellis received that many chances while maintaining his average of 3.7 yards per carry, the former New England back would have produced 1,263 rushing yards last season - fifth-most in the NFL.
Now let's get really crazy. Suppose Green-Ellis had those 343 carries while continuing to average one TD every 16.5 carries, just like he did in 2011. That adds up to an astounding 20.85 touchdowns, a number we haven't seen since LaDainian Tomlinson pounded into the end zone 28 times back in 2006.
All right, let's dial it back a bit. Green-Ellis won't get 343 carries. Quarterback Andy Dalton attempted 516 passes last season and remember the Bengals still have Bernard Scott, who is likely to steal at least 100 carries from Green-Ellis.
With that said, I think the 273 touches Benson received last season is certainly within reach for Green-Ellis. As impressive as Dalton was during his rookie campaign (20 TDs, 3,398 passing yards), he's still quite raw and his production began to dip near the end of the season (54.8 completion percentage, 75.8 QB rating in final eight games). Plus, Dalton's only established receiver is A.J. Green (1057 yards, seven TDs in 2011) and he's still only 24 years old.
There's potential here, but this is still a young and very flawed passing attack. Until Dalton can start getting more consistent production out of his other receivers, Cincinnati will still lean heavily on the run, meaning lots of opportunities for Green-Ellis. With 273 carries or somewhere in that general vicinity, the fifth-year back should be able to sneak past 1,000 yards for the second time in his career.
Green-Ellis also will benefit from a strong offensive line that allowed just 25 quarterback sacks in 2011 (fourth-fewest in the league) and though he has never handled a huge workload, Green-Ellis is a rock-solid 220 pounds with a clean bill of health.
In recent seasons, Green-Ellis has embraced his inner Mike Tolbert and become one of the league's better finishers around the goal line. That ability to vulture touchdowns could make Green-Ellis invaluable in Cincinnati and in fantasy as well.
The Bengals had a devil of a time punching the ball into the end zone last season, settling for field goals 38 times (fifth-most in the league). Cincinnati was particularly inept from inside the 10-yard line, which is Green-Ellis' specialty. Only three teams attempted more field goals from inside of 30 yards than the Bengals did in 2011. With the sturdy Green-Ellis wreaking havoc in the backfield, Cincinnati should have no trouble turning some of those field goals into touchdowns this season.
The skill set that Green-Ellis offers seems to match Cincinatti's offense perfectly, making him one of the more underrated options at running back in this season's fantasy draft.
So for those of you searching for this year's fantasy dark horse, look no further. I promise, the "Law Firm" won't disappoint in 2012.
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