New England Patriots Stevan Ridley is the man


New England Patriots followers have known that Stevan Ridley is the man to lead this running attack, but some followers of other teams don’t recognize Ridley’s talents enough or, even worse, think that running back is a position of need for the Patriots. Crazy, right?

Well, all that craziness has been put to rest by the reactionary doubters, as Ridley rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries yesterday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It wasn’t a perfect game- his pass protection is still poor and costed the team a sack- but Ridley was excellent and arguably the brightest spot on the Patriots in the 30-28 loss.

It hasn’t just been about one performance in the preseason, Stevan Ridley has consistently been rushing at a high level. He has averaged 4.5 yards per carry through these three preseason games, and Ridley has been improving as a pass-catcher. The Patriots are giving him more complex routes to run, and he is clearly the team’s best rusher- especially between the tackles.

The Patriots running game has a lot of upside going into 2012 with the young, explosive combination of Ridley and Shane Vereen. Although Vereen is worse in pass protection and isn’t as good of a pure rusher, he’s still above-average and also adds another dimension to this offense with his pass-catching; he’s a legit No. 2 back in this league.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis did a great job for the Patriots over the last few seasons, but, with all due respect to the solid rushing of “The Law Firm”, Ridley and Vereen offer more.

As we all saw on Friday night, Ridley has the ability to do multiple things as a rusher to gain yards. He can score touchdowns in short-yardage situations, he can get consistent yardage between the tackles, and he can rip off a big gain with his explosiveness.

Stevan Ridley is the man at the running back position for the New England Patriots, which vindicates the thoughts of the majority of Patriots followers. Everyone else is taking notice at his talents now, which means that fantasy owners should feel safe about Ridley’s production going into next year. I really like what I saw out of Ridley as a pure rusher- pass protection is a different issue- and the fact that the Pats have five running backs who can make the roster (three can at least be No. 2 backs in this league) means that the Maurice Jones-Drew to the Patriots trade rumors have little hold (if they ever did at any point).

Some thought that Vereen was beginning to close the gap, and this is encouraging. Hopefully his injury last night turns out to be nothing, because this is one young running back duo oozing with potential. Vereen, in all honesty, has only one advantage over Ridley; receiving. At this point, Ridley is the No. 1 back on this team and has performed at a high level throughout the preseason and during training camp. Vereen’s good in his own right, but he doesn’t have the pure inside and outside rushing ability that Ridley possesses.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.