Sep 22, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) runs the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn (94) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
When the 4-0 New England Patriots take on the 2-2 Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday they will be doing so without their star TE Rob Gronkowski, but perhaps more significantly, without their previous starting RB Stevan Ridley. The loss is more significant because Gronk has been out all season so far, and the Patriots have adapted to his absence. Ridley was limited in practice all week with a knee/thigh injury and, although some reports deemed it not serious, he has been downgraded to out for this week. Ridley has seen his struggles this season, but it’s hard to argue the boost he gives this offense when he plays at his best. He is a dynamic runner that can hit speeds that backup RB’s Brandon Bolden and LeGarrette Blount simply cannot run.
Without Stevan Ridley and with Shane Vereen still on IR with designation to return, LeGarrette Blount and Brandon Bolden will shoulder the load of the running game this weekend. Normally, one would expect an somewhat even split between the two, but Bolden was seen limping in the locker room this week after practice after aggravating his right knee injury last Sunday in Atlanta. Bolden should still play on Sunday, but he will likely be confined to the passing back role while Blount will take the majority of snaps as primary back.
Blount has slowly improved in his time with the Patriots, averaging more yards per carry with each game, and owning the Patriots lone rushing TD for the season. In his first four games with New England, he has already eclipsed his rushing total from 2012 in his 13 games played with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. As a starter in Tampa Bay, Blount was a huge play-maker and an easy first to second round pick for fantasy owners. This was before he fell out of favor with the coaching staff due to his attitude problems and poor work ethic. These issues seem to be in the past now that Blount is a Patriot, and although he will face a tough test against a strong Bengals front-7, he could have a huge game with Ridley’s absence.
For those that haven’t seen what Blount is capable of, take a look at the video below. Even if you don’t want to see the whole thing, I highly suggest you see him hurdle a Seattle defenseman for an incredible run at 1:24.