Last season, New England RB Stevan Ridley took a big step in his NFL career. Ridley went from 87 carries in 2011 to 290 carries in 2012 and finished 7th in the NFL in rushing yards. His 12 TD’s tied Adrian Peterson for 3rd place in the league. But even with the impressive leap in stats, Ridley did not make the Pro Bowl roster. Will he fare better in the voting this season?
The Patriots have had a wild offseason, mainly on the offensive side of the ball. The receiving corps was almost completely exchanged. I expect the Pats to emphasize the running backs more this season than in recent years, and Ridley will likely start the season as the feature back.
I believe the Patriots will use a higher percentage of running plays this season, but Ridley will have roughly the same amount of carries as last season. Shane Vereen will get more opportunities than last year, and either Brandon Bolden or LeGarrette Blount will mix in for a few plays. We may even see Leon Washington here and there. Essentially all of Ridley’s production comes by rushing. Out of 401 passes Tom Brady completed last season, only 6 were to Ridley. This means that Ridley will have to make the most of his runs and have a lot more big plays than he had last year.
Ridley seemed to hit the 10+ yard carries often, but only had 6 runs of over 20 yards. And the majority of his touchdowns came on short yardage plays. In fact, Ridley had just one touchdown run of over 10 yards last season. I will say that he had plenty of runs where he was just a half step away from a huge gain, so hopefully he finishes those runs this season. He appeared to step up his game and capitalize when New England got into the red zone.
Another weak point of Ridley’s game was his tendency to fumble the football. Just as everyone was ready to credit him for fixing his fumbling habits, Ridley fumbled in back-to-back games against the Buffalo Bills and Denver Broncos. A few weeks later, he fumbled back-to-back games again (Houston, San Francisco). He finished the season with four fumbles.
I don’t believe that Ridley will make the Pro Bowl this season. Jamaal Charles, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, C.J. Spiller, and Chris Johnson all play in the AFC. It would be tough for Ridley to beat out three of those five fan-favorites. When casting a Pro Bowl vote, most fans think of the backs hitting big 70+ yard touchdowns. Those are the highlights that stick in your head the whole season. Another big thing that fans remember: turnovers. His only chance for a trip to Hawaii is to break more big plays and keep the ball off the ground.