When talking about the Patriots offense, it obviously starts with Tom Brady and the two tight ends. Then newly acquired Danny Amendola will be discussed and then maybe the young and upcoming running back Shane Vereen or one of the new wide receivers will be talked about. But Stevan Ridley seems to be overlooked way too often. I mean its not like he had a bad year in 2012, in fact I think he had a great year. He brought a dimension to the Patriots offense that has not been there since 2004. Having a balanced offense is a must in the NFL. I think that may be the main reason why the Pats came up short from 2004-11. They had absolutely no running game to help out Brady, there was just too much pressure on Brady to play a perfect game. However, now with Ridley they have a running game that they can lean on when Brady is off a bit, or they can’t handle the oppositions pressure.
Considering the fact that Gronk may not be ready for the start of the 2013 season, and the lack of firepower at the receiver position I think Ridley will be one of the biggest keys to the Pats success in 2013. If Gronk misses some time then as of right now it would leave the Pats with Jake Ballard, Aaron Hernandez, Danny Amendola, Donald Jones, and Ridley as the starting weapons on offense. In terms of the passing game, I don’t think that is very scary at all. Teams will double Hernandez and other than Amendola I don’t think any of the other guys can consistently win their one on one match-ups. That is where Ridley comes in. If he can run the ball effectively then that opens up countless opportunities for the other weapons in the Patriots offense.
Ridley finished 2012 with 1,263 yards on 290 carries to go along with 12 touchdowns. Those are really solid numbers especially considering the fact that the Pats throw the ball so damn much. I think Ridley will have to at least equal those numbers in 2013. With the loss of Welker and Lloyd, and with the absence of Gronk looming large, the Pats passing offense will not be nearly as potent as it was one year ago. That is why Ridley is going to have to be big for them next year. I know he is capable as well, Ridley is very talented and later down the road he may be looked at as a huge steal for the Pats because he was a third round draft pick.
If Ridley can not run the ball effectively for New England then their offense will be in trouble. Teams will begin to tee off on Brady and really throw off the offense. Now, in previous years Brady could combat this by just hitting Welker on a quick hot route. However Welker is no longer in New England, and I really doubt that Brady will be able to develop that kind of chemistry with Amendola that quickly. It seemed at times that Brady and Welker’s brain worked as one and it will take a lot of time for Amendola and Brady to achieve that kind of connection. If Ridley is able to run the ball, then teams will bring an extra guy into the box and that allows Hernandez and Amendola to get one on one match-ups and that is definitely a win for the Patriots. A running game also helps protect Brady, and at his age the Pats would really like to keep the amount of hits he takes to a minimum.
Bottom line in my opinion, is Ridley will really have to step up if the Pats want to get back to the Super Bowl. If Ridley struggles then I doubt they get even close to the promised land. I think the greatness of Tom Brady would be able to carry them into the playoffs and maybe even win a game or two, but without a solid running game they won’t be getting back to the Super Bowl.