The New England Patriots almost have to give Stevan Ridley the start on Thursday against the New York Jets, because Shane Vereen is out and it wouldn’t make much sense to start Brandon Bolden (coming off of a knee injury) or LeGarrette Blount (coming off of a terribly inefficient performance) over Stevan Ridley, who is the best rusher on this roster. Say what you want about his ball security issues, but they’ve always been there. If one rough game of fumbling changes your opinion on Ridley, then you probably change tides too quickly. Ridley is a fine workhorse back who is a legitimate feature back in this league, and you don’t toss 1,200-yard rushers to the curb unless if they struggle abhorrently.
Stevan Ridley is not struggling abhorrently, and he actually had a great game on the ground if you take fumbles out of the equation. I’m not making excuses for the fumbles, but I will definitely say that he looked good when he wasn’t turning the ball over. Ridley is the most efficient rusher on the team, and he is a bellcow back who is very good between the tackles and can get some yards on the outside.
Tom Brady has Ridley’s back, by the way, “I know Stevan is a very mentally tough kid. I love having him back there. I love giving the ball to him and watching him run.”
And then Brady said this, “We fumbled a snap on the goal-line, I threw an interception; you have to be able to bounce back from those things. Football is not necessarily a game of perfect. It’s just that you try to limit what your bad plays are, so they’re not really bad plays, or really critical plays in the game.”
Turnovers happen, and you can’t shove somebody to the bottom of the pile because of a rough game of fumbling; a lot of that is bad luck. Ridley obviously needs to tighten up his ball security, but people tend to overreact with these things. I mean, what are the odds that Ridley would fumble once (officially) on a rather fluky fumble. Really, it was a fluke play. Again, you can’t write off a player based on that or even bench him at all in this scenario, and Ridley will continue to be a top back in this league. I don’t think some of the fumble concerns are going away, but there are definitely backs in this league who are more fumble-prone than Ridley. He’s fine, and Tom Brady knows it too. I hope Ridley works hard on that facet of his game, but I am in his corner. The Patriots already showed their message and tough love by benching him, and now it’s just up to Ridley to stay mentally strong, learn from his errors, and just go out there and do what he does best; run the football.