Now that the 34-10 New England Patriots victory is starting to settle in, I decided to change our site poll to see who you guys think deserves to win the Patriots figurative “Game Ball” for Week 1. An overwhelming majority of you guys have already chosen Stevan Ridley, which means that we’re in agreement. Ridley is my Game Ball choice as well, despite my infatuation with rookie safety Tavon Wilson.
21 carries, 125 yards, and one rushing touchdown. That ends up equating to an average of 6.o yards per carry, and Ridley took advantage from some great blocking upfront by the offensive line collectively to achieve a breakout game that most of us were forecasting against the Titans. But of course, I don’t think many people projected a 125 yard outburst for Ridley. I was one of the people who thought he would get around 100 yards, but there was no way I had 125 in mind.
Ridley’s performance on Sunday officially showed the NFL that he has the tools to be a legitimate feature back in the NFL. He has the raw skills with his tantalizing mix of explosiveness and power, and Ridley has now become a more patient rusher and is more decisive with his cuts. That has enabled him to take advantage of solid blocking and utilize his burst to the outside and cuts between the tackles to break a big gain or get the yardage he needs.
There are a lot of backs in this league who are one-dimensional and are either pure speed backs or pure power backs. This has led to the wide usage of RBBCs, which is basically football’s version of the platoon. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just means that it’s special to find a back like Ridley who can score on a one-yard plunge, consistently gain yardage, and have that extra speed to be able to break one in the open field.
Dual-threat ability for backs isn’t the combination of rushing and receiving, it should be recognized as the combination of speed and power. Being a back who can catch passes out of the backfield certainly adds to one’s versatility- something for Ridley to work on along with his pass protection- but I’ll take pure rushing ability any day. That’s what Ridley has, and he showed it all off against the Titans.
There are definitely some things that Ridley needs to work on as a rusher in terms of consistency, but the biggest weaknesses he has are pass protection and receiving. But there’s no denying Ridley’s ability to run the ball. I know somewhere in all of this I’m getting ahead of myself, but I also know that having Ridley makes the Pats a more balanced and, therefore, dangerous team in 2012.
You can vote on the poll yourself below and clobber me with insults in the comments section.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.