In Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley followed up a 100-yard rushing performance in Week 4 by going off for a career-high 151 yards on the ground. He scored on an eight-yard run and finished with an average of 5.4 yards, but he also fumbled for the second straight game.
Flash back to last season when Ridley was benched for fumbling issues, and you can see why there are rumblings that Ridley may see a lesser role, if not benched entirely, as a punishment for his recent fumbles.
Bill Belichick said, “We talk and work on ball security every day with everybody. Everybody who handles it, it’s important. It’s the highest priority with everybody.”
Frankly, it would be ridiculous to see Ridley being punished against the Seattle Seahawks for this reason, because he has been insanely productive this season. He’s had three 100-yard rushing games and is the team’s first legitimate feature back since Corey Dillon in the 2004 season. He’s already rushed for 490 yards this year and has averaged 4.8 yards per carry.
Those rushing numbers are off the charts, and he is the fifth-best rusher in the NFL. More importantly, he has the second-highest EPA among all backs and is a workhorse with 102 carries (tied for third in the NFL).
The Patriots will need Stevan Ridley in full force when they face the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6, because their opponents have the best run defense in the NFL with guys like Red Bryant and Alan Branch leading the way. The ‘Hawks hold down opponents to just 3.2 yards per carry, so the Pats will need to give Ridley the rock more often as opposed to other backs.
He will inevitably receive a lower dose of carries based on the tough matchup against Seattle’s run defense, but I don’t think the Pats should be punishing him after those two fumbles. It’s disappointing to see that he has put the ball on the ground twice in the past two games, but the fumbles will only become a true issue if it keeps happening as the season wears on. Remember, he’s carried the rock over 100 times this year already and is the best bet at running back for New England. Brandon Bolden looks good, but he’s unproven and is not as good of a bet to produce against the Seahawks.
For now, let’s wait and see if fumbles continue to be an issue for Ridley as the season wears on. It’s, in all honesty, small sample size at this point, and it is imprudent to cut his carries because of a couple of fumbles. After all, he is averaging nearly five yards per pop and is one of the most consistent backs in the NFL right now.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.