Bennie's Law

BenJarvus Green-Ellis

Consistent and competent. Accountable and reliable. Serious and soft-spoken. It's pretty much unanimous when it comes to the man nicknamed "The Law Firm" with the game as precise as a legal brief.

The Law Firm. BJGE. Bennie and his 223-pound Jets. By any name there is a history and there is the future and while BenJarvus Green-Ellis says his "New England days are behind me," those last four years with the Patriots are why the Bengals wanted to make him co-chairman with Bernard Scott of their new running back committee.

He has yet to put on pads, but No. 42 has been as advertised in the first two weeks of voluntaries.

"He's an attention to detail guy," says running backs coach Jim Anderson. "When he does it well, he doesn't say much. When he doesn't do as well, he wants to know why and how he can improve."

"You don't know about guys until they put the pads on," says left tackle Andrew Whitworth. "But from his history, that's what you need. Consistency and he's a consistent guy. People are always looking for dynamic, but sometimes all you need is somebody that is consistent. You can tell it means a lot to him."

"We'll see when we get the pads on. I know he's a consistent guy," says offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. "He works hard and he's an accountable guy. They didn't use him as much as he probably could have been used because they have the top quarterback in the history of the league throwing the ball. He's been everything we thought he'd be: A solid, steady guy. Good player."

There may be no aura of Tom Brady at quarterback, but Green-Ellis likes the zip of Andy Dalton. There may be no Gronk at tight end, but BJGE likes the fullback. There may be no pads yet, but he likes what Gruden has in mind. He embraced Bill Belichick's Patriot Way and now he's full tilt into Marvin Lewis's Bengal Business.

"We're doing things in the run game I haven't done since college," Green-Ellis says. "There's lot more running plays, so that a good thing."

Take the fullback, a non-entity in New England's spread stuff where tight ends play receiver and catch 17 TDs like Rob Gronkowski did this past season. Anderson isn't surprised BJGE likes the looks of fullback Chris Pressley.

"Sure he does. It's a different animal playing with a fullback than an F tight end," Anderson says. "Just the nature and the physique and the size of the position. That guy is a leverage guy. A tall, rangy guy is not. Sometimes the guys he's maybe been exposed to, they're not really physical blockers. They're more finesse guys that you're going to spread out. You've got one more guy to help you to or through the line of scrimmage."

The knock on The Firm and his career 4.0-yards per carry average is that he can't bust the long one, but that's where Scott comes in. Green-Ellis feeds the Bengals where they've starved the past two years.

While the Cincinnati backs have scored 17 touchdowns, Green-Ellis got into the end zone 24 times. While Cedric Benson lost seven of 12 fumbles, Green-Ellis has yet to fumble in 536 NFL touches. A total of 94 percent of his rushes have not lost yards. And, yes, he had Brady.

But those qualities stand up well in the punishing AFC North, where games more often than not are decided by turnovers and clock control in a division every defense finished in the top 10.

"He fits us well," Anderson says. "He knows the little things win games. That's why he doesn't mind doing windows."

Eric Ball, the club's director of player development who was the last Bengals running back to wear The Firm's 42 from 1989-94, approached Green-Ellis this week and said he thought he would be bigger because of how he played on TV.

"I'm 223 (pounds)," the 5-11 Green-Ellis assured him and Pressley observes, "He's strong and he's coming out of a program where they're taught to go 100 percent all the time and that's what he's done out here."

He'll have different challenges, Anderson says. Green-Ellis will be taking on those extra defenders that are now going to be in the box that were spread away from it against the Pats. But Anderson says he's comparably rugged and thick when stacked against division marquee backs like Ray Rice in Baltimore and Trent Richardson in Cleveland. 

And if he doesn't have Brady, now Green-Ellis has a fullback, a change-of-pace partner in the speedster Scott, and a running game.

"I like to have that guy in front of me," Green-Ellis says of the fullback. "A lead blocker, things like that. From a run-game standpoint, it allows us to do different things. You have that guy who sees things through the same set of eyes. Whenever I make a cut, he's making a cut. That one guy that may be coming off his block, he's able to chip him back on. It kind of gives you some leeway."

Green-Ellis arrives at a fortuitous moment since Gruden, Anderson and offensive line coach Paul Alexander are looking at ways to improve a running game that finished 19th last season. The run is a big part of what Gruden has emphasized for improvement, which is short-yardage, red zone and what he calls "bigger shot plays." In fact, he said he was going to set aside Wednesday as a short-yardage day.

In one of his first duties as a club consultant this offseason, former NFL offensive line coach Jim McNally studied the run game in conjunction with this season's opponents and delivered a report.

"He's been a big help for us. He's brought some ideas from his experiences and we've added a lot of them to our concepts," Gruden says. "It's been good to have him. He does a good job breaking down future opponents for us, doing some preview work on other teams, which sometimes you don't quite have the time to be as thorough as he is, but he's as thorough as any coach I've ever seen.

"There are some entry points and issues we tinker with a little bit. Aiming points by the back and things of that nature. We've changed a few things with the way we're blocking some things. For the most part we're the same, but a little bit different."

Translation: If Gruden said any more, he'd have to kill us all. For his part, BJGE isn't thinking about how the lack of a Hall of Fame quarterback is going to change his game.

"We've got Andy, though," he says. "I like Andy, I like A.J. (Green) and Jermaine (Gresham) and (Andrew) Hawkins and all the receivers and tight ends. We're helping each other out. I feel like if we can see things through the same eyes and be on the same page, whether I'm picking up a blitz for them or if they're taking out a safety or the eighth man in the box for me by a receiver. We just want to make sure we have each other's backs."

He's noting how Dalton is running the offense.

"I like Andy. He's a young leader and his leadership role and the way he's taken command of the offense is good. You can see him improving every day. Putting zip on his passes, connecting with guys on long balls. Some things you would like to see in young guys. Not make the same mistake twice. That's one of the things we have to do as a young team. Learn from our mistakes and not do the exact same one twice. He does a good job, especially with the receivers and the backs, telling you where he wants us on the ball. He's showing us he's a real good leader so far."

At first blush, The Firm and The Rifle have the same demeanor. They go about their work quietly and leave quietly.

"When he's in the building," says Whitworth of Green-Ellis, "he's very serious. Getting to meetings on time, doing what has to be done. People like that are usually pretty successful."

Which is pretty much how Green-Ellis sees his new team.

"We're a bunch of young guys that are hungry," he says. "We come in and work hard. The guys here are attentive, they take care of their bodies like professionals and we're just getting ready for the next day, the next game. Now we're getting ready for tomorrow's practice."

Anderson knows there are just some things he won't have to worry about tomorrow.

"Let's not fool ourselves," Anderson says. "He wants to be good. That's part of his track record."

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