The Patriots had an NFL-best 14 wins this past season. They have the best QB in the league, Tom Brady, who was the unanimous choice for the MVP. But this team had troubles on defense. The Patriots are young on defense and lack a consistent pass rush. Bill Belichick must believe in the old adage, that the best defense is a good offense. One of the ways to protect a leaky defense is to control the clock. The best way to control the clock is with a solid running game. In today’s NFL, a good running game means having multiple backs who fill various functions. With their selection Shane Vereen, the Pats signed the speedy back who can score from anywhere on the field. With their next selection, the Pats took a back who can pick up those tough yards in situations when it is, oh I don’t know, 4-and-1 late in the fourth quarter.
That is exactly what the Pats got when they chose RB Stevan Ridley out of LSU. The 225 lb bruiser is the perfect complement to Vereen. Ridley, playing in the always physical SEC, rushed for an impressive 1,147 yards while punching it into the end zone an impressive 15 times. With BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ridley gives the Pats the ability to run the ball down opponents throats. This may be one way that they can neutralize the pass rush of teams like the Jets.
If Ridley can help the Pats play smash-mouth football, opposing defenses will be forced to start to cheat their safeties closer to the line of scrimmage. Imagine what Tom Brady might do if that situation begins to present itself. Teams will have to make a choice; do they want to slowly be bludgeoned into submission or get torched with the quick strike accuracy of the future Hall-of-famer? Not a fun choice.
Once again, I like this pick. Like but not love. Ridley has produced for a major college football program in the toughest conference. But he seems far from a sure thing. Ridley and Vereen should inject some youth and athleticism to an offense that could use some. But Ridley does not appear to be an every down back. Nor does he need to be. These two young studs could just be a force out of the backfield for quite a few years, especially when Brady forces defenses to be honest.
And with the news coming in from all over the internet and media, it looks like we may just find out sooner rather than later how good these guys will be. There is some speculation that a new deal could be in place before July 4th. It appears that date may be a bit premature. A more likely date would be a week or two after that. If so, the impact on the season should be minimal. Teams will need time to sign draft picks and free agents. My guess is that when that time comes, the Pats will be ready. Belichick is nothing if not prepared.